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50 Years of Farquharson Around

Review by Sarah Crane

Catherine McKinnon and Don Harron invite audiences into the Carmody Comedy Barn in Stanley Bridge three nights a week this summer, for a nostalgic look back at their prolific careers in 50 years of Farquharson Around.

From the beginning, a casual atmosphere is established when latecomers are told to, "Come on in! It's only me up here." A casual give-and-take with the audience ensues, it's sort of like a visit with a friend, albeit an incredibly entertaining set of friends: the lady weaves music and stories with a velvet voice and the husband has a twinkling wit.

The evening is like a look through a shared photo album. Harron's characters are familiar, and even if you haven't before met the famous Charlie Farquharson or his wife Valeda Drain Farquharson, or perhaps his city cousin Valerie Rosedale, it will still feel comfortable because they are brilliant caricatures of the people who surround us. While Charlie Farquharson may be a creation of Parry Sound, he and his wife fit very nicely into the folks and landscapes here on Prince Edward Island.

Farquharson and the not-so-lovely Valeda are characters that nail those odd Island neighbours some of us have. They are funny to visit, but you're always left shaking your head at the way they see the world.

The appearances of the characters from the past are layered with musical memories sung by Valeda Drain's alter ego, Catherine McKinnon. She tells them, "Sit back and relax, because for God's sake! You're in a barn," and they quickly respond to her request. When they're invited to sing with her, almost everyone chimes in enthusiastically.

McKinnon performs favourites from the last 50 years. She says she looked at the top five songs from each year and picked her favourites. With every familiar tune, there is a gasp of excitement before the audience joins in with McKinnon's stunning voice. Her voice easily fills the barn.

Songs like "How much is that doggy in the window," and "When you're young at heart," have the audience singing and swaying along. Each time McKinnon appears on the stage she is an image of flowing silk and colour, and the audience is obviously delighted with her.

An evening of memories in song and story sets the audience up for the grand finale: an appearance from the man himself, Charlie Farquharson. He arrives on stage, resplendent in Charlie's original cap and sweater.

Speaking to audience members following the show, all remarked at how they loved McKinnon and Harron during their careers in television. All said, Farquharson Around called to mind delightful memories.

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