by Tiffany Budhyanto
Located in the historic Todmorden Mills heritage site is the charming Papermill Theatre. Large wooden beams, red brick walls and a gallery of paintings create a pleasant atmosphere where the local community can enjoy theatre.
The company’s last production of the season, Present Laughter, portrays a narcissistic middle-aged actor named Garry Essendine in 1939 preparing to leave for a production run in Africa. Lusting women, a crazed playwright, his ex-wife, and his bitter secretary all get in the way of his plans.
Garry, played by Robert Ouellette, is an actor seeking peace of mind from all the colourful characters in his life. Ouellette himself is seasoned and charismatic, carrying along the play with whimsicality.
My favourite character is Garry’s maid, Miss Erikson. She is a Scandinavian spiritualist who bops around the house, cleansing the house of both dirty housewares and evil spirits. Actress Edith Acker plays Miss Erikson with such authenticity it is difficult to imagine her being any different in real life.
There are two promising young actors from the production. The first is Madison Walsh, who plays Daphne Stillington, a girl chasing Garry, who is twice her age. The second is a young man named Stephen McLarty, who plays Mr. Maule, a peculiar playwright devoted to Garry.
Despite having unpaid actors, the cast is professional and well trained. Some have attended New York City acting academies and most have devoted their lives to performing theatre.
Though Noel Coward’s material is old, it is not entirely outdated; I still laughed at many of the jokes in the play.
There is much care and attention paid to aspects of set and lighting design, costume and direction. A beaded white ball-gown and formal tuxedos are examples of visual appeal found in this production. My theatre companion Anna said the costumes were her favourite part of the show.
The East Side Players’ production of Present Laughter is an evening of delightful entertainment and a must-see for anyone who loves farce. The theatre is intimate and pleasant. I enjoyed the play and will definitely come back to see the company’s future productions.
Please note that seating is unreserved, which means you must come early to sit in the front rows; however, its small size means that every view in the house is a good one.
– Present Laughter by East Side Players
– Written by Noel Coward
– Directed by Ron Wheatley
– Runs until June 11, 2011 at the Papermill Theatre, located at 67 Pottery Road, at Todmorden Mills Heritage Site.
– Tickets are $20 for general admission and $15 for students. Subscriptions are $50 for 3 shows and available by visiting eastsideplayers.ca/tickets/tickets.html.
Photo (from left to right): Nicole Downie, Robert Ouellette, Ted Powers, Daryn Dewalt