submitted by Steve Wendt
During the COVID years, the North Grenville Community Theatre had quite a slow period. Our fixed expenses continued but we couldn’t put on shows, so we had no ticket revenues. We couldn’t rehearse and even when restrictions were relaxed, our audiences were still reluctant to come back to performances. We needed to do something big.
We decided on “The Admirable Crichton”. This show was written by J.M. Barrie, a few years before he wrote Peter Pan. It was a hit when it was first produced, and we thought it was time for a revival. With a cast of about 25 plus people working on the set, costumes, sound and light, lots of people were able to get involved.
This play really looks at the question of who should run things. When the play opens, we are in an aristocratic manor house in England, where everyone knows their place. Everyone that is except Lord Loam, who has strange ideas about equality. He decrees that once a month, the wealthy people should serve tea to the servants. No one enjoys the role reversal. Then Lord Loam has another idea – when the family goes on a tropical cruise in their yacht, his daughters will have to share a single maid. Chaos ensues, and only the trusty butler, Crichton, can set things right. Only then can we get through Act 1 in reasonable shape.
Unfortunately, there is a storm at sea and the ship is wrecked. The survivors are washed ashore on a desert island. A new society is formed, and everyone has to work for their dinner. But who will lead? The aristocrats are quite helpless on the island but once again, Crichton rises to the challenge. Two years pass and life is good. It is almost Utopia and then – a ship is seen. What will our people do, stay in their new home, or go back to England? Only Crichton knows.
We started regular rehearsals for the Admirable Crichton in January. We have some actors coming from quite a distance across the region and winter storms caused several schedule changes. We ended up rehearsing in four locations. With a cast of 25, it has been a real challenge trying to get everyone together in one place.
A special challenge for this show is the need to change scenes rapidly. From the Manor House to the Island, and then to the new Island house, we needed moveable set elements and ways to keep the audience entertained during transitions. Something had to be done. Our set designer got creative and put a lot of things on wheels.
Many of our performers are new to the Kemptville stage. We are very grateful that so many are joining us. Although the Admirable Crichton is not a musical, we asked our actors if any of them wanted to sing or play an instrument in the performance. To our delight, seven said yes, so we do have a few musical interludes.
Rehearsals are always fun. In fact, that’s the whole purpose of community theatre, fun for the cast and crew and, we hope, fun for the audience. We hope a lot of people will join us at the theatre.
The Admirable Crichton runs from May 24 to May 28 at the Urbandale Arts Centre. All the performances are evenings except the Sunday afternoon. Tickets are available online at NGCT.CA and at B & H Your Community Grocer.