'Mary's Wedding' dazzles to close Blyth Festival
BY DENNY SCOTT
Mary’s Wedding is a heartwarming tale of a woman and the man she loves fighting in a war overseas that ends in an expected way, leaving the audience reeling.
Blyth Festival Artistic Director Gil Garratt chose a magnificent play, a magnificent cast and a magnificent crew to bring to the first show he chose to direct as Artistic Director to life. The show will stand as one of the best dramas to grace the stage for some time.
The play was brought to life with sparse dress and stage and that allowed focus on the incredible performances of the show’s cast.
With one of the smallest cast available (just two players taking on several roles), the play demands a lot, however actors Eli Ham and Sophia Walker bring all their parts, including the roles of main characters Charlie and Mary, respectively, to convincing life.
The play, as explained by Ham’s Charlie at its beginning, is a dream that Mary has the day before her wedding and, also as he explains, starts at the end and ends at the beginning.
From there, Ham and Walker, under the direction of Garratt, bring to life Stephen Massicotte’s play that follows the simultaneous courtship of Walker and Ham and Soldier Charlie’s time at the front.
Walker plays both Mary and Ham’s commanding officer Flowers. The play, and Mary’s dream, follows her recalling meeting Charlie dreams about how hard life was for him in the war thanks to the letters he sent.
Through memories of their time together and the communiques from the front, the couple relives, in Mary’s dream, their chance meeting during a thunderstorm to the day that Charlie went to war.
As Garratt explained before the beginning of the show, there was no intermission for the play. The actors flow so seamlessly from one scene to the next (with the help of some hidden hands using a shed as a barn and a church for a Saturday tea and other things in between) and, when the end did come, it didn’t feel like anything had been missed by forgoing an intermission. While the play is timed at 90 minutes, the pacing makes the whirlwind tale feel as if it has gone by even quicker.
Costumes were sparse for the show, with Ham changing to reflect where he was occasionally and Walker constantly wearing her nightie, however it didn’t feel like she needed to don anything else.
Whether she was on the docks waving goodbye to Charlie, helping her mother put together a Saturday tea or enjoying equestrian lessons from Ham, Walker brought her character to life through her actions, her whimsy and her intensity and her wardrobe seemed to fit every stage of the play.
Set and costume designer Kenneth MacKenzie did a fantastic job of creating a horse on stage. While farm animals are no stranger to the Blyth Festival stage, the use of some slightly modified equestrian equipment was all that was needed, alongside the acting of Walker and Ham, to make the audience believe they were on a horse, especially during Ham and Walker’s first meeting and Ham’s charge.
Lighting was also well used but, at the same time, never at the forefront. Brought to the stage by Festival veteran Rebecca Picherak, lighting provided everything from the sensation of rain which seemed quite real, to the flashes that follow lightning and explosives.
What really makes the technical side of this play shine is the fact there can be two completely different scenes happening at the same moment and both somehow fit. Whether it’s dancing at a birthday party and a battlefield or whether it’s a thunderstorm and mortar fire, the two timelines, and thus the two stories, are blended together perfectly.
While likely to be classified a drama or, by more classical methodology, a tragedy, the show is happy. That could fall to the script, the direction or the acting, or, more than likely, a combination of all three. However, thinking back on the exchanges between Ham and Walker, one can’t help but smile despite the fact that, as was to be expected by the end of the first half-hour, the ending was almost a certainty.
Mary’s Wedding opened on Aug. 7 and will run until Sept. 12 and should not be missed. For more information visit www.blythfestival.com or 1-877-862-5984.