Midsummer: this seemingly light-hearted material is more than one imagines.

Midsummer: this seemingly light-hearted material is more than one imagines.

Midsummer. Photo Randy deKleine-Stimpson


Viewed at the 1000 Islands Playhouse in Gananoque, ON

Performed in the more intimate space of the Firehall Theatre, Midsummer (A Play with Songs) by Scottish playwright David Greig is perhaps the most thematically unique offering in TIP’s summer 2018 season. In contrast to the easy-going comedies and fun musicals, Greig’s work is one which engages with deep questions of finding happiness in life and whether one can truly live past their ‘prime.’

Although this play is one which deals with “everyday love” and the problems it entails (as per director Brett Christopher’s note in the program), the way it goes about exploring the abovementioned questions is one which succeeds in facilitating thought and reflection. More than a simple romantic comedy, Midsummer provides an honest portrayal of two people struggling to decide their next move after seemingly coming to a dead end.

Set in Edinburgh, the play recounts the short romance which blossoms between Bob (Brent Buchanan), a petty criminal, and Helena (Alison Deon), a single divorce lawyer during the rainy midsummer weekend. This relationship organically unfolds as a story being told to the audience, beginning from the moment they first meet in the Old Town pub. As their relationship progresses, the viewer is exposed to the characters’ internal thoughts and real-world conflicts with other people. As noted in the program, no lines in the play are assigned to a specific character; the lines in this production are distributed evenly between the two actors, allowing for effective and entertaining exchanges between characters to take place. Humorous songs, originally composed by songwriter Gordon McIntyre (with musical direction by Ryan Cowl in this production) and performed on guitar by both actors, entertainingly illustrate how Bob and Helena perceive the events which occur.

The portrayals of Bob and Helena (as well as other characters) by Buchanan and Deon are energetic and feel genuine. As Bob, Buchanan perfectly captures the personality of a man who has reluctantly fallen into the path of crime and would like to get out of it. He brings a welcome warmth and humour to the character. Deon similarly gets Helena down pat as a seemingly tough-minded lawyer who is struggling emotionally on the inside. Their performances lend further believability to the romance that develops between the characters. As the play is set in Scotland, the actors also adopt Scottish accents to varying degrees of success; while Buchanan’s is inconsistent at times, Deon deserves credit for having a convincing one throughout most of the show.

The aspect of Midsummer that makes it unique among romantic comedies is the fact that it doesn’t hesitate to fully probe into the emotions and psyches of the subjects involved. There’s plenty of humour, but also doubt, regret and disappointment expressed by Bob and Helena at turns throughout the play. A very astute observation is made by Bob when he notes that “life isn’t about playing your hand” but rather, observing what one has. It is the choice of inaction in the face of having the opportunity to pursue what one truly desires, along with the possibility of change, that are the elusive treasures of the play (and in real life itself, by implication). The characters’ quest in pursuance of these opportunities are all the more relatable and human for it.

All of the technical elements of the production work to effectively immerse the audience into the world of Midsummer. The set, designed by Sean Mulcahy, is a thoroughly authentic rendering of a typical British pub, complete with bars, a large wrap-around booth seat, and TVs at the back showing football. The tables and chairs set up before the main seating area for a few spectators to have a closer experience are also a nice touch. Lighting by Oz Weaver is always attuned to the mood and dramatic moments onstage, as is sound design by Deanna Choi (the noise of people and drinks clinking together at the pub in the beginning being a good example).

Midsummer continues until September 2 at the Firehall Theatre in the 1000 Islands Playhouse. For information and tickets, see http://www.1000islandsplayhouse.com/midsummer/


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