One of the perks of writing for MUSE is that I get to attend countless shows and productions that I wouldn’t regularly be able to afford. Last week I got to preview the Queen’s drama department’s fall major, The House of Martin Guerre. It is set in 16th century France, in a small town where a 14 year-old boy has just been married off to an 11 year-old girl. After years of being unhappily married, the boy, Martin, leaves his wife and the town, only to return 8 years later a changed man. He is so changed in fact, that some of the townspeople suspect him to be a different man entirely.
The play is written by Anna Casio and Leslie Arden, the latter working closely with director Tim Fort and the cast by providing workshops and her creative input. The first thing I noticed when I sat down was the sheer size of the set, which was created using more than 3300 feet of wood. Wood and burlap panels reach almost to the ceiling, dwarfing the 100-seat Rotunda and giving the audience the feeling they are right in the town square. It makes sense to have such an enormous set, as so many of the scenes involve all or most of the eighteen-person cast.
The cast was incredibly well rehearsed, and director Tim Fort’s attention to detail was apparent even in the most hectic scenes. Even peripheral characters were always performing in ways that were true to their character, and often added subtle humour to the scene. The dance numbers were well choreographed, though there was one moment where the main character’s mannerisms felt as if he was in a modern dance battle, which slightly conflicted with the 16th century setting. Though all the actors did a superb job, special mentions go to Pierre (Kieran Donworth) and Marie (Erica Hill), who especially stood out. All cast members were Queen’s students, with the addition of two young boys (Shawn Garvin and Owen Strong), who alternate show nights playing young Sanxi. I know this isn’t at all what a fifth grade boy wants to hear, but Garvin was absolutely adorable and interacted so well with his much-older castmates. The musical numbers struck a perfect balance between somber and silly, and the story moved at a pace that was easy to follow without being too slow.
Though musicals set in poor medieval towns don’t traditionally lend themselves to excitement, the cast of Martin Guerre really bring the story to life. It is so apparent how much work went into this production, and I would highly recommend that everyone go see The House of Martin Guerre.
The House of Martin Guerre is playing at the Rotunda Theatre in Theological Hall, from November 5th to 15th. Tickets are available at the door.
Paige Guscott, Online Reviewer
Images: Tim Fort