PLAY REVIEW: Blyth Festival Theatre presents ‘The Drawer Boy,’ again

Bent: In the same fashion as its first production, The Drawer Boy did not disappoint

The Drawer Boy is a story about stories. So, what’s not to like for a storyteller like myself?

Journalism is often said to be the first draft of history books, and as a journalist I find myself appreciating the stories within stories.

This play has a particularly interesting back story, or so I think.

The Drawer Boy is set in 1972, and is based on a historic moment in Canadian theatre history. A group of actors, from Toronto no less, set out to develop a play about farming, farmers, and the rural way of life. What they developed became a Canadian treasure also known as The Farm Show. This moment has also been dubbed a pivotal moment in Blyth Festival Theatre’s development. Thus, its return to Blyth on the 50th anniversary of this endeavor.

Additionally, The Drawer Boy was previously developed at the Blyth Festival in 1995-1997.

As a junkie for anything based on a true story, I was thrilled to be back at the Harvest Stage for the return of The Drawer Boy and I am even more excited to share my thoughts with you in hopes of encouraging you to support local arts like the Blyth Festival.

As I took my seat for the second season of a completely outdoors Blyth Festival season, I realized that I much prefer the airy atmosphere to a more traditional theatre environment. I recently attended a show at the historic Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto, which I must admit was beautiful with its marble staircases and crystal chandeliers, however, it didn’t add anything to the show it was hosting, unlike the Harvest Stage.

I have noticed last season, and now this year, and I would like to show my appreciation to the team at Blyth Festival Theatre, who do a wonderful job of pairing their theatrical performances and stories with the Harvest Stage’s atmosphere. An atmosphere that I think will only become more beautiful as the lush green backdrop of trees turn multi-colour as the autumn season approaches. I can’t wait to see how this backdrop changes, and how it connects with the rest of the 2022 Blyth Festival Theatre productions.

Also adding to the atmosphere were the musical talents of Graham Hargrove and Anne Lederman. Their music to welcome the audience was folksy – the kind you can’t help but tap your foot to, or perhaps something a couple might two-step to.

As the sun set behind the trees and the lights lowered for the beginning of the show, the tunes laid the foundation for the humble story that myself and the rest of the audience would take in.

The Drawer Boy is essentially one of the backstories behind the development of The Farm Show. A prequel, in film lingo.

The plot itself is divided into three stories, however, I will only address two in an attempt to avoid any spoilers.

The first is the story that one of the visiting actors, named Miles and played by Cameron Laurie, is trying to document by living and working on a farm owned by the character Morgan, played by Jonathan Goal, and the character Angus, played by Randy Hughson.

This story starts by being formed by sarcastic anecdotal remarks, ones that are familiar to those who have any working experience in the agriculture industry.

Perhaps my favourite was the claim that farmers shuffle the eggs in the hen house at night, taking one egg out from under a chicken and placing it under a different chicken to confuse the hens and ensure they are not sad in the morning when their eggs are collected.

Being a complete and utter farce, the first few stories documented by Miles didn’t carry him very far with the collective of actors he was working with. That is until he stumbled across a more personal exchange between Morgan and Angus and the life they have shared.

This story changes everything for Miles, as the collective of actors love the story, but it also changes everything for Morgan and Angus.

I won’t delve too deeply into the why, but this story – which made me both laugh out loud and cry at times – takes a sudden and heart-wrenching left turn at the height of the storyline.

With great change comes great reward as the audience finds closure alongside the characters before the metaphorical curtain closes on the production.

Amongst the intertwining spiderweb of stories, I am sure there is something enjoyable to be found for any audience member taking in a performance of The Drawer Boy.

Some might say there are too many elements to this story, however, I would love to hear even more. For example, I would love to know the thoughts of someone who has seen both productions of The Drawer Boy – past and present – or perhaps someone who has also seen The Farm Show.

If you happen to have seen the two previous shows, but have yet to take in the latest rendition of The Drawer Boy, there are regular show dates in Blyth until July 16. To view the schedule or purchase tickets visit blythfestival.com.

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Kelsey Bent is a journalist with the Wingham Advance Times. She can be reached for comment by emailing kbent@midwesternnewspapers.com

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