The Farm Show: Then & Now

The First Farm Show
(and Origins of the Blyth Festival)

Reviewed by Lauren daSilva

The Farm Show: Then & Now, is a love-letter to rural Ontario. This adaptation of one of the most influential plays in Canadian theatre, The Farm Show, is a beautiful reimagining that sheds light on the process of creating The Farm Show, while maintaining the essence of the original work. First produced in 1972 in a barn outside of Blyth, The Farm Show was responsible for the founding of the Blyth Festival three years later. Playing from June 12th to August 4th at Blyth Festival’s outdoor Harvest Stage, The Farm Show: Then & Now is an expertly-done revisiting that reminds audiences of the impact that the original production left on Blyth, and then the world.

The Farm Show: Then & Now follows the original actors of The Farm Show in their initial research on farmers and rural families from the Clinton area on the 15 mile line. While The Farm Show: Then & Now introduces new characters, it remains true-to-story with depictions of the original stories that captivated Canadian audiences. This adaptation includes fragmented scenes that illustrate the lives, triumphs, and struggles of rural Ontarians, while inserting modernized scenes throughout. The show begins with the “actors” exploring Ontario farms and the unique communities built within. The “actors” then seamlessly transition into the characters they would eventually portray to convey the original stories told in The Farm Show. 

The Farm Show: Then & Now is truly a sensational piece of Canadian theatre. The show was a beautiful commentary on the community built within the Blyth area, and how agricultural contributions have shaped our nation. Each character was a delightful reminder of someone every Ontarian has met at church, hockey, or just passing through. The familiarity of each story and the masterful performances make for a captivating production that emphasises the importance of community, Canadian agriculture, and of course- tractors.

Each of the five actors (portraying actors) were brilliantly cast. The cast accurately portrayed a plethora of characters, flawlessly transitioning to everything from modern “actors,” to animals, to children, to farmers. Fiona Mongillo and Hallie Seline masterfully portray the nuances of being a woman in mid-20th century rural Canada. Landon Doak and Jamie Mac beautifully depict the labour, struggles, and successes of Ontario farmers. Each actor successfully captures audiences with both their physical comedy, and raw emotion. Geoffrey Armour is a standout in this production. His commitment to each character is believable, and his physicality makes for an unmissable and unique performance.

The set and props are simple, but effective. A map of the farms on the 15 Mile Line fills the stage as a constant reminder of the audience’s proximity to the stories they are witnessing. Antique farm equipment and simple props are a nod to rural Ontario, then and now.

The Farm Show: Then & Now stands as a poignant tribute to the rural heart of Ontario, intertwining past and present through its rich storytelling and compelling performances. This masterful adaptation not only honors the legacy of the original The Farm Show but also breathes new life into its timeless narratives, capturing the spirit and resilience of the agricultural communities. The cast’s versatility and dedication bring warmth to each role, creating an immersive experience. As a testament to the enduring power of community and the vital role of agriculture in shaping our society, The Farm Show: Then & Now is a must-see for anyone, especially Ontarians, seeking a heartfelt celebration of Canadian agricultural and theatre heritage.

The Farm Show: Then & Now continues at the Blyth Festival Harvest Stage until August 4. Tickets are available at 519-523-9300 / 1-877-862-5984 or go to

Note:  While comparing this production with the original Farm Show, it is also interesting to recall the 2013 production of Beyond the Farm Show, where the original Farm Show concept was updated.  You can read the review of it here.

Photo: (left to right): Fiona Mongillo (left), Jamie Mac, Landon Doak (above), Geoffrey Armour, Hallie Adeline (right).

The Farm Show: Then & Now
By Theatre Passe Muraille, with new additions by the company
Directed by Gil Garratt
Performed by Geoffrey Armour, Landon Doak, Jamie Mac, Fiona Mongillo, Hallie Seline
Harvest Stage, Blyth Festival Theatre, 377 Gypsy Ln, Blyth
June 12, 2024 to August 4, 2024
Reviewed by Lauren daSilva


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