A Rowboat in the Attic
Review by Sarah Crane
Inkerman, a grand house that used to be just off the North River Road in Charlottetown, has an enthralling story. Colonel John Hamilton Gray built it before the birth of Confederation in Charlottetown. When Nancy Beck spent her childhood summers there, Colonel Gray's ghost used to roam the halls. The Colonel haunted several generations of Beck's family. One of her great-great-grandfather's bought Inkerman after the Colonel's death. The grand house burned down in the seventies. But Beck remembers it today by sharing its story with audiences, through her one-man show, A Rowboat in the Attic.
It seems the few houses on the Island that have their own name are very grand or famous: Beaconsfield, Fanningbank, and even, (dare I mention?) Green Gables. When a house is given a name, it can develop a character unto itself, with its own history and story, almost capable of possessing a personality. This is true of Inkerman. Beck tells the story of "the big house" with care and fondness. Her own history revolves around the house. All of the people who lived in it lent some of their character to the building, to create a place swollen with stories and laughter.
Beck's show is casual and informal; at times it seems she is sitting across a kitchen table, talking about Inkerman, drinking from a coffee mug. But when she tells a story, she stands and becomes the many characters that inhabited Inkerman over the years. Her characters range from young children who are scared of the ghosts in the house, complete with big eyes and little voices, to her elderly grandmother. But it's the character of the house that is most eloquently made apparent. It is a place where parties draw people together and friends are always welcomed back.
Although Nancy Beck shows a great range of characters, it is her singing that really brings the house down. Her renditions of the `party pieces,' sung at Inkerman `shindigs' leave the audience roaring with laughter, and the sweet, simple song, "Will ye no come back again," is delightfully touching.