The Drawer Boy 2015

War, Love, and Farming

Back in 1972, a group of young Toronto actors came to Huron County, in southwestern Ontario, to write a play about farming.  The Farm Show became a renowned piece of Canadian theatre, along with its modernized 2013 version, Beyond the Farm Show.

The making of the 1972 Farm Show was a story in itself, or so the Blyth Festival thought.  They commissioned playwright Michael Healey to tell the story of one actor who was part of the collective that created The Farm Show.  The Drawer Boy, now on stage at the Port Stanley Festival Theatre, is the fictionalized version of actor Miles Potter’s experience while working on The Farm Show. Drawer Boy 2015

There is always great humour when we take the boy out of the city and stick him on a farm.  Do farmers get up before dawn to rotate the crops? The city boy is told that the farmers dig up everything in one field and replant it in the next field.  Or is it really important to wash each pebble of gravel by hand, and return it to the culvert?  Do the cows give milk out of fear?  If a cow fails to produce, the city boy is told, she will be the next one butchered for hamburger.  The cows know this and try hard to give milk to save their lives.

In addition to the fun that can be had mocking the city boy, The Drawer Boy has an enticing plot.  The two farmers, Morgan and Angus have a fascinating back story that develops into a mystery.  They were best friends, who went to war together, and when on leave in London, they met two pretty girls.  Angus is injured by shrapnel in a bombing.

Thirty years later, in 1972, he is still challenged by brain damage, and lives with Morgan on the farm.  Morgan is his protector and care giver, while at the same time exploiting him.  Angus makes sandwiches and does the bookkeeping with amazing accuracy, yet can’t remember what happened five minutes ago.  Miles, the young actor and would-be playwright, is billeted with them as he works on writing The Farm Show.  He walks in and upsets this unusual couple and their order.  Morgan and Angus’ relationship is much like the central concept of John Steinbeck’s great novel, Of Mice and Men.  What makes The Drawer Boy a great play is the interesting twist in the end of the tale.

Scott Maudsley is brilliant as the brain-damaged Angus.  He has a convincing array of quirks and mood changes, and shows his transformation as Angus starts to recall the past.  Jeff Culbert is perfect as Morgan, who out of loyalty and guilt keeps watch over Angus.  He makes us believe that he is sure he is doing what’s right for Angus, even when his mandate begins to unravel. Nathan Carroll is Miles, the unlikely farm hand, who is also frustrated in trying to get his contributions to The Farm Show on stage.

The set is excellent – a bare-bones seventies-style farm kitchen for two middle aged men. Between scenes there is music from sixties and seventies.  We hear many favourites which put the audience in the mood of the day.  But the tunes just didn’t seem realistic in the farm kitchen, and weren’t the type you’d expect the farmers to appreciate.

The Drawer Boy pulls together many facets – the urban/rural humour, a war story, a love story, and at the same time, offers an opportunity for farmers to remind city folk of where their food comes from.  It’s interesting to hear the 1972 commodity prices quoted. Go see The Drawer Boy; you get entertainment and education for just one ticket.

The Drawer Boy continues at Port Stanley Festival Theatre until August 22.  Call the box office at 519-782-4353 for tickets or visit www.portstanleytheatre.ca

(Here’s my blog on Beyond The Farm Show at the Blyth Festival 2013: https://www.entertainthisthought.com/2013/07/19/beyond-the-farm-show )

Photo: Scott Maudsley as Angus, Jeff Culbert as Morgan.  Photo by Melissa Kempf.

The Drawer Boy
By Michael Healey
Directed by Simon Joynes
Performed by Nathan Carroll, Jeff Culbert, and Scott Maudsley
Port Stanley Festival Theatre, Port Stanley
August 5 to 22, 2015
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

 

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