A feel-good title and a few members of the audience wearing white gloves and other accoutrements in preparation for a royal meeting give the impression that Janet Wilson Meets the Queen is going to be light and fluffy.
In fact, this world premiere by Beverley Cooper is a depressing look at one woman’s sad little life. Set in Vancouver in the late 1960s, at a time of massive change around the world, Janet Wilson continues with her mundane routine surrounded by her surly teenage daughter and grumpy mother, while trying to cope with her frequently absent unfaithful husband and her American draft-dodging nephew. Also thrown into the cluttered mix are news of Janet’s wife-abusing brother-in-law and a view of her daughter’s sexual experiment with a pencil, plus having Neil Armstrong in spacesuit dropping into her kitchen. Only the thought that, as the representative of the local IODE chapter, Janet is to present a bouquet to the Queen helps her to maintain her equilibrium.
Under the direction of Andrea Donaldson and with strong technical support and carefully nuanced performances from Marion Day as Janet and Beverley Wolfe as Granny, the show offers some comic moments. Day’s determined approach to delivering Janet as an optimist in the face of the ugly reality of her life is effective and is the main reason for any continuing interest in Cooper’s script.
And, just for the record, it is highly doubtful that the Queen, the consummate professional, would be distracted in the way Cooper describes. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to accept that Janet’s royal meeting concluded as the script would have it.
Janet Wilson Meets the Queen continues at GCTC to May 8.
Director: Andrea Donaldson
Set and costumes: Roger Schultz
Lighting: Martin Conboy
Sound: Thomas Ryder Payne