Brendan Kergin, Arts & Entertainment Editor Ω
Harvest, a play hosted by Western Canada Theatre, has an interesting mix to it.
A touch of fringe atmosphere, as just two actors take on and share a variety of roles. A feel of Corner Gas, with two main characters that could have spent a couple episodes on the sitcom. A local lean, with references to B.C. and shout-outs to the Fraser Valley, Nelson and other provincial marks.
It’s very Canadian in many ways, despite no hockey. The homey lead characters owned a farm, likely near Chilliwack though it’s not really stated. They rent their former home to a shady character and shady things happen.
This is a comedy with heart at its base. Written by Ken Cameron, a playwright based in western Canada, it’s a story many western Canadians can relate to, especially older generations. It touches on the different cultures of younger generations interested in cities and digital tools compared with homesteaders of past generations, proud of what they and their ancestors built.
The story revolves around latter. The plot discusses drug culture and touches on the movement from the idealized small towns of the mid-20th century and the less personal aspects of today.
This is all well and good, but the words don’t mean much until an actor expresses them. With this piece it takes skill, since just two people play a range of characters. Aside from their characterizations, the only major prop or costume changes used are some sunglasses, a scarf, a couple of hats and a couple of jackets.
This is where strong acting is important. Harvest relies heavily on the performances of Norma Bowen and Brian Linds. The talent here was to switch personas at the literal toss of a hat and they did a great job. Even when they shared a character, that character retained his/her “self.” To be pretentious for a moment, Linds and Bowen were one canvas with multiple characters painted into the scene.
The story is told as a recollection, with the married farmers explaining the situation they got themselves into. The play is told as a series of flashbacks, but with the exact same setting and the same two actors playing everyone. At first it can be a little difficult gauging age (and sometimes sex) of the character, but Bowen and Linds provide enough characterizations as to avoid most confusion, and Cameron’s script helps iron out the rest of the details. While some characters might take some time to mold in your mind, the technique provides for some hilarious moments, with hat tossing and gender bending. A third actor does slip in for a moment, but it can be accepted as Hazmat suits are hard to jump into and he or she spoke like muffled adult from Charlie Brown. However, it would have been nice to see that dealt with off-set somehow.
Overall, Harvest is a fun performance with a heart. It’s a good play to go to with your parents, or even your more easy-going grandparents. A working understanding of B.C.’s geography and towns can provide added context and a sharp mind will keep the characters all in order.
Harvest can been seen at the Pavilion Theatre in Kamloops from Sept. 13-29.