by Paul Sharpe at Dress Rehearsal

The set for Lafferty’s Wake is a relaxed country pub in Ireland with pictures of the Pope, the Virgin Mary and the late John F. Kennedy on the walls and a well-stocked bar. A feature of the pub that will seem strange to Canadians is a coffin, supported by Scotch whisky crates. The front portion of the theatre contains large round tables for VIPs (very important patrons), who are served drinks (non-alcoholic at no extra cost) before the play begins. Patrons are surprised by a gradual, rather than definite beginning of the play, as characters move about the theatre, engaging with the audience. A number of times during the play, actors walk into the audience to engage people in conversations, singing, games and even dancing. So, the traditional barrier between audience and actors is dissolved and patrons soon feel like participants in Lafferty’s wake.

The stories told by Rory the pub owner, the widow Kathleen, other family members and Father Pettigrew were so convincing, we became thoroughly familiar with Lafferty’s character. Laura Drover’s acting experience was evident in her depiction of the widow, Kathleen Lafferty. Well-known musicians, Doug Hendry as Father Pettigrew and James Clugston as pub owner Rory Finn, are very comfortable performing for crowds and this showed in their confidence and singing on stage. Jacob Dunning as Patrick Clancy, Lafferty’s son-in-law, provided both comical and musical interludes into some of the dramatic moments of grieving. Judy McCormick, as Charlie’s Dublin friend Molly, is an engaging actor who is both feisty and comical. Maggie, Charlie’s daughter, was played by both Kate Bell and Mireille Carpentier. Kate loves to be emphatic in describing her knowledge of her onstage father and Mireille did a grand job with her Irish accent and singing. And, of course, the “back in time Lafferty of Old” was played hauntingly by Ian Bell.

This production by Kemptville Players had plenty of music, thanks to the fine skills on guitar of Patricia Reynolds, the violin of Glenna Hunter and bass guitar of assistant director Caroline Marshall. Vocal solos were performed by most of the actors and by singer Helen MacGregor. The other singers on stage, Nancy Henry, Jane Baird, Carol Nichol and John Baldwin provided well-tuned harmony, enhancing the audio experience.

Lafferty’s Wake provided many surprises, laughter and plenty of opportunities for audience participation. The audience all left with a smile.


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