by Lynn on July 15, 2022

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Falstaff Family Centre, 35 Waterloo St. N, Stratford, Ont. Plays until July 17, 2022.

Written by Mark Weatherley

Directed by Sara-Jeanne Hosie

Lighting and sound design by Stephen Degenstein

Costumes by Bonnie Deakin

Cast: Lauren Bowler

Daniela Vlaskalic

Mark Weatherley

A punningly funny, wonderfully researched, bracing play about the women entrepreneurs who made and sold ale and then some in the 1300s in England.

The Story. It’s 1340, England. The beer brewers were women. (from the programme): “Agnes and Margaret are two brewers in a small English village…forced to fight the Reeve, the priest, the Aletaster and the Bailiff for the right to chart their own destiny.” In other words, Agnes and Margaret had to use their considerable wits to succeed in this man’s world. How times have not changed.

The Production. Playwright Mark Weatherley has obviously done considerable research into the subject of ale making, the history of it; perhaps even the source of the word “toast” when offering a raised glass in celebration to someone or something; and how customers knew that ale was available for sale at the tavern—a broom was put at the top of a ladder as the sign. Fascinating. The language is a combination of the language of the 1300s (or so we believe) and the language of today.

Agnes (Daniela Vlaskalic) owns the tavern and Margaret (Lauren Bowler) is her co-worker. Agnes is given a fine performance by Daniela Vlaskalic, Agnes is methodical, tenacious knowledgeable about her business and wary of the precarious world she works in. Margaret is rather wily. For every trick that one of the overlords holds over the business, Margaret comes up with a scheme. As played by Lauren Bowler, Margaret is never flustered, rattled or unsettled by the many and various schemes that the Reeve the Aletaster or the Bailiff came up with. One of the male scammers wants to fine the two women for future transgressions. This gives them the idea of selling shares in the tavern for future sales. The women learn well from their ‘teachers’. The women deal with frustration upon frustration when dealing with men who want to cheat them, and we see how Agnes and Margaret beat them at their own game.

Mark Weatherley gives us a peak into ale making of the 1300s; how a mistake can lead to another kind of brew; how in some drinks, hops were added for more taste, and on and on. And he shows the utter tenacity of the women to meet every scheme the men can throw at them.

Mark Weatherley plays all the men in varying degrees of humour, venality, smarmy-charm, and real low-down-scummy. Each character is distinct even when one is off-stage and never seen. He’s a fine comedic writer as well as a compelling actor.

The whole production is directed by Sara-Jeanne Hosie with a sense of how to use the small space and props that always serves the play. At one point a blind is raised to reveal the lush greenery of the actual land outside the window that is so effective. Bonnie Deakin has designed the set with jugs, barrels, what looks like a broom of the time, and other props that look appropriate for 1340. The same goes for the costumes that are rustic and workmanlike.

Comment. As usual, Here for Now Theatre has begun its welcome festival with a fascinating play, Ale Wives, about how women made all the ale in the 1300s in England and what they had to contend with. It whets your appetite to learn more and of course it whets your whistle for a nice brew, too.

Here for Now Theatre presents:

Plays until: July 17, 2022.

Running Time: 70 minutes.

Leave a Comment

Respectful comments are accepted on this site as long as they are accompanied by a verifiable name and a verifiable e-mail address. Posts that are slanderous, libelous or personally derogatory will not be approved.