The Drawer Boy

A Renowned Story Comes Home

Reviewed by Vicki Stokes

What better place to stage a play set in Ontario’s farm country than Blyth Festival’s Harvest Stage? What better time than 50 years after the conception of an idea that led to The Farm Show, which eventually lead to Michael Healey’s The Drawer Boy. The idea of The Farm Show was to have actors live and breathe the farm life near Clinton, Ontario, hoping it would lead to fresh, new and authentic stories on stage. It worked. Then in the 1990s, Healey created a story around the experience of going to the country to capture these stories. His play has been popular ever since, even inspiring a film.

There are three characters in this story. Miles is an actor from Toronto, full of nervous energy, dedicated to finding the right story to tell. Cameron Laurie captured this character perfectly. Miles meets Angus, who seems to be a gentle soul, whose memory lapses due to an injury during the war. He continues to forget who Miles is. He is highly capable when it comes to bookkeeping, he can bake, but he needs the supervision of his housemate and long-time friend Morgan. Randy Hughson is exceedingly convincing as Angus, who needs routine to keep him even and free from headaches but becomes unsettled due to Miles trying to capture their story for his theatre group.

Morgan is overburdened with responsibilities and finds it difficult to make ends meet, and he acts like help from a city slicker is more trouble than it is worth. He asks Miles to perform some ridiculous tasks, such as rotating the crops and switching the hen’s eggs around. When Miles wears shorts to help with the haying, Morgan doesn’t stop him and lets him suffer the consequences. Jonathan Goad is an excellent Morgan, who doesn’t come across as malicious but is firmly aware of the reality of his situation.

Miles hears Morgan tell Angus their story (which isn’t quite true) and brings it to the stage. Being shaken out of his routine triggers something in Angus, and he remembers something and becomes convinced Morgan hasn’t been telling him the truth. Eventually, the true story is revealed but mercifully, Morgan hastily helps Angus forget it again. There is plenty of comedy in this story to offset the tragedy, and Miles gains some valuable experience.

Getting to the Harvest stage is an enjoyable summer evening’s walk through the fairgrounds. The seats are under a canopy, and the air is fresh. Onstage, a typical farmhouse kitchen is perfectly created, complete with a chrome table, tea kettle, bread box, and older refrigerator with rounded corners and edges. The costuming for the farmers and the young man from the city is flawless. Miles changes several times and each outfit is exactly right for the times. A see-through wall allows you to see inside the upstairs bedroom. The actors aren’t limited to the stage. They can go out front and around it, which presents outside, and there is a sense that there is an entire farm due to the occasional sounds of animals. I’d seen on social media that an old red tractor was going to be present, but I didn’t realize that the tractor would be part of the action. Only on an outdoor stage could this be possible!

There is one other factor that makes this staging of The Drawer Boy an exceptional one: the musicians perform lively fiddle and washboard-type music beforehand, warming up the audience, then continue to contribute music and sound effects throughout. The talent of Graham Hargrove and Anne Lederman is a wonderful addition!

The Harvest Stage is a success; it has even been expanded and there are landscaping plans in the works. What a perfect time to visit, or if you’ve come before, revisit, and see this excellent production of The Drawer Boy where it all began.

The Drawer Boy continues until July 16 at the Blyth Festival Harvest Stage, Blyth Ontario. Call 1-877-862-5984 or go to www.blythfestival.com for tickets.

Photo: Jonathan Goad as Morgan, Randy Hughson as Angus and Cameron Laurie as Miles.  Photo by Terry Manzo.

The Drawer Boy
By Michael Healey
Directed by Gil Garratt
Performed by Jonathan Goad, Randy Hughson and Cameron Laurie
Musicians: Graham Hargrove and Anne Lederman
Produced by Blyth Festival, Blyth
June 22 to July 16, 2022
Reviewed by Vicki Stokes

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