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Blimey, what a weekend

July 4, 2022

For many years there was a four-day theatre festival in August here on the island. It was magical: plays and performers you’d never otherwise see. Okay, some turned out to be duds, but the good ones (and there were many) more than made up.

In 2012 I actually appeared in the festival in a play called The Housekeeper, a full length two-hander. To this day I still don’t know how the hell I managed to memorise all those lines.

A few years ago the arts council decided, in addition to the theatre festival, to mount a music festival over the Labour Day weekend. This was reasonably successful from the punters point of view, but a nightmare for the arts council who had a major challenge with volunteer burnout. 

And so it was decided to combine the two: two days of theatre and two days of music over a four day weekend.

Obviously Covid cancelled everything in 2020, but the festival was back last summer with a brand new outdoor stage. I didn’t bother with the music part of the weekend, but I did go to a couple of plays starring mates: Joe and Scott in a long one-act called Life on Mars (no Gene Genie) and Tom and Ray in Red, an amazing play about Mark Rothko.

Earlier this year Joe was asked by the local director of one of the plays slated to be performed if he would take on the role of Ken in Grow Up Granddad.

A very British play was adapted for a Canadian audience, who would have no idea what “gerroff” meant, let alone what a Fray Bentos pie is. (Although, astonishingly, I’ve just discovered you can order them on Amazon.)

He read the play, liked it and agreed, despite the fact that rehearsals would begin while we were still rehearsing and performing A Divine Comedy. His character is in every scene of this lovely play and I know all too well, as I said, how tough it is to memorise half a bloody play. So I told him I would be happy to run lines with him whenever he wanted.

And thus, for the past few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time either running lines with him or taking Georgie out for walks so he could work on lines himself undisturbed. (The last walk I took her on during the dress rehearsal was nearly three and half hours and well over 12,000 steps. Felt completely knackered the next day.) 

When I was asked by the organisers if I would introduce the play I was delighted to agree and immediately waived the $50 fee I was offered.

And so to the first performance on Thursday night.

Joe was absolutely fantastic. And his co-stars also did themselves proud. (Hard to believe this man’s first theatrical role was as the pantomime villain in Will Shakespeare the Panto.) Of course, when I headed back stage to give him a hug and tell him how great he was, all he could do was bemoan the four lines that had flown completely out of his head. (Not that anyone in the audience would have noticed, but that’s what we do.) The Friday matinee was word perfect.

Being an MC scored me a theatre pass, so I also got to see a fantastic one woman show about the trials and tribulations of our fifties (those were the days), a reasonably entertaining mock radio play performance and, sorry to say, the very disappointing and self-congratulatory one man show finale.

But wait! Turns out, because I’d so willingly waived my fee, I’d been given a full festival pass, not just the theatre pass. 

So, back on Saturday to see some live music. A pretty good blues guy, an excellent folky duo, who are apparently normally a trio, but one was MIA (hard to imagine them being better with a third), a not particularly engaging (to me) “alt-folk, alt-country” singer and, the pièce de resistance: a performance by Pierre Schryer and Adrian Dolan, fiddle players extraordinaire.

This is them performing with a third player.

It took a while – and a demand from the stage – but people (other than a small handful, including myself, who were already doing so) finally got out of their seats and danced. A-MAZING!

As Joe was leaving he asked if I’d be back for Sunday’s music. “Depends,” I said. “On what?” he asked. “On whether the forecast is correct and it’s going to be pouring with rain.” The forecast was indeed correct. Many people donned rain gear and headed to the common. I did not. 

Three days of largely delightful live entertainment in glorious weather was enough for me.

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