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Photo by Kelly Hotte.

Walk through local history with Perth’s Classic Theatre Festival

By John McDonald on July 15, 2016

A leisurely summer drive from Ottawa, the Classic Theatre Festival in Perth is an ideal destination for those seeking affordable and entertaining theatre with a local twist.

Running until mid-September, the festival is offering classics of Broadway and the London stage with plays by George Bernard Shaw, and J.B. Priestley. There are 8 performances on the main stage, and 6 walking plays each week.

Photo by Kelly Hotte.

Photo by Kelly Hotte.

I Ought to Be In Pictures, Neil Simons’ heartfelt comedy about a father and daughter rebuilding their relationship after years of disconnection, is the current main stage offering.

The two ‘walking plays’ – River of Memory and The Lonely Ghost Walk – have a local focus.

With the Festival now in its 7th year, Associate Producer, Matthew Behrens believes the local aspect is important:

“The Festival is able to help build a cohesive community. For instance, our Save A Seat gives marginalized individuals the opportunity to attend our plays with dignity. These are tickets that individuals with limited income can obtain through our partner agencies. Some who attend become inspired to volunteer. There’s always so much to do. Painting sets, setting up chairs. It brings involvement.”

And it’s not only the public that benefit from the Festival’s programmes.

The actors involved with the walking plays are part of the Festival’s year round Youth Theatre Training programme.

“The youth involved in the programme are involved in the development, production and touring of a play. They develop skills that they might not be able to develop in a school setting. And the play they are involved with addresses specific issues raised by the youth participants.

River of Memory, for instance, is a universal story. It acknowledges the importance of personal identity. It’s a story based around the relations between early Perth settlers and the Indigenous People. It has brought tears from those attending.”

Lonely Ghosts has song and dance with comedy. You could say that it is inspired by the rhythm of silent films. It’s the story of a Perth distiller and his tempestuous relationship with a women’s temperance leader. It’s a compelling story that deals with a very important issue.”

While the community-focus of the Festival is important, equally so is the entertainment.

“Our offerings are from the golden age of theatre. Plays that are universal and accessible. Compelling. These are professional award-winning actors who can deliver the goods. For instance, William Vickers, who plays Herb Tucker in our current play, has been with Shaw Festivals for more than twenty years. Some of the actors in our upcoming plays will be quickly recognized by the audience. We offer very good entertainment.

And we are so close to Ottawa.”

The Classic Theatre Festival is definitely worth the drive.