The Cooney Papers: A history lesson in review

Tranquille Farm Fresh’s mixed-media show aims to teach you about Tranquille

Tranquille Farm Fresh has been a staple in the Kamloops community for unique theatre, and The Cooney Papers was no different.

When you arrive at the playing site at Tranquille Farm Fresh, you are greeted and sent on your way inside the buildings and down to the tunnels. From there, you find your way to the theatre by exploring the inner workings of the buildings. I had never been to Tranquille Farm Fresh and down into the tunnels before, so it was a very eerie experience.

There were a couple of points where I wasn’t quite sure which way to turn as there were two ways I might have been able to go, but the music playing in the halls and the lights helped me find my way.

Once I found my way to the theatre, I found myself in a very intimate setting. Not many people could fit in the space, but it wasn’t at all cramped. I was fronted by a large curved screen, and props and set dressing strewn around the space as well. It was vastly different from the usual theatre spaces I was used to. Unfortunately, the room we were in was rather cold and I wished I had worn a couple more layers.

Once the show began, the film started playing on a large screen. It first showed how Annette and Tim McLeod got the story about the Cooney’s and then went into more or less a history lesson about Canada in the 1800s. Eventually, the story reached the Cooney’s and how each of them, Charles and Betsy, arrived in Kamloops. The acting didn’t begin until after their stories were introduced, and then they told the tales of their lives in Kamloops and how they impacted the city.

The acting itself was well done. The actors who portrayed Charles and Betsy did very well, and all the actors in the film, including current TRU student, Greg Brown, all played their roles well. The story of Charles and Betsy was brought to life by the actors, and they took my mind away from the idea that I was watching a documentary.

I was expecting the show to be more immersive than it was though. The audience was only directly spoken to once or twice, but each time I was spoken to made me feel giddy and excited to be there. Perhaps the actors may have shined more if it weren’t for the unfortunate troubles in the technical department.

I was very impressed by how such a small group like Tranquille Farm Fresh could create such moving theatre. The criticisms come from awkward lighting and sound cues, and scene transitions from film to action that didn’t quite flow that well. There were confusing pauses where the audience was waiting much too long for the next thing to come, and no music in between to keep our minds busy.

Although the live technical elements weren’t perfect, the film itself was shot very well. All the images were smooth and crisp and it was enjoyable to watch the beautiful shots of the scenery in Kamloops and of the actors themselves.

If you are not interested in the history of Kamloops or Tranquille, this show may not be for you. The mixed media was a great idea, and I think it was done well for what Tranquille has to work with.