Monday Magazine contributor
The three actors in Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre’s staging of The Drawer Boy are all magnificent.
Their portrayal of the characters they play is nothing short of brilliant. Gary Farmer is totally authentic as Angus, who suffered brain damage and whose memory has ceased to function. He is cared for and managed by Morgan, played by Michael Armstrong, who also shoulders most of the work on the farm.
Enter Miles, a young actor who is one of a group collecting stories from farmers in Ontario, and who offers his labour in exchange for finding out about life on the farm. Griffin Leonard Lea performs this difficult role with aplomb, being (or pretending to be) totally ignorant of things rural. He is ripe, therefore, for Morgan to play all kinds of somewhat unkind practical jokes on him.
Miles begins by watching all the farmyard activities, and making up rather silly tales on the feelings of cows. He soon realizes that the human story between the two old friends is much more interesting, and begins to record much of it in detail. He invites the two old farmers to a rehearsal of the play-in-progress, and something there begins to awaken Angus’ memory. This angers Morgan to an unreasonable extent, and we gradually begin to comprehend that the story he has made Angus believe is not the truth. While Miles listens, and hears what is not being said, the sadder reality is hinted at. This results in an upset in the delicate relationship between the older men.
This play is quite complex, since it is art imitating life, or maybe it is the other way around. There really was such research going on in Southwest Ontario in the 1970s, and a play called The Farm Show emerged from that.
It is interesting to remember that Armstrong and Farmer took the lead roles in Of Mice and Men at the Blue Bridge a few years ago, where they played characters of similar natures to those in The Drawer Boy. Clearly the chemistry is equally wonderful here.
The set, lighting and costuming all add to the atmosphere of this play, directed by Jacob Richmond, which is a totally riveting piece of theatre. The Drawer Boy runs at the Roxy Theatre until July 15. Go to bluebridgetheatre.ca or phone 250-382-3370.