Lord, What Fools!
Review by Carol Little
This year’s children’s Christmas play at the Confederation Centre of the Arts was John Bevan-Baker’s musical comedy Lord, What Fools! The performance, which featured thirty-one actors, many of them youth, ran for two nights, December 2 and 3.
Bevan-Baker wrote the play thirty years ago in Scotland, where it was originally performed as a school play, featuring nearly two hundred members of the small community. For the recent production, the play was adapted and modernized to include local references and humour, including a spy from Newfoundland and allusions to the new Charlottetown trolley bus.
The title Lord, What Fools! is taken from Shakespeare’s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which the nymph Puck, candidly observing muddled human courting behaviour, states “Lord, what fools these mortals be.”
The play is a retelling of the classic Christmas theme of a community that learns the true meaning of Christmas. It opens comically with Officer Sandy Banks singing about how it’s “painfully pleasant and peaceful here” and how he longs for a crime to bring some excitement to the “dreary, dull backwater town”.
The townsfolk are caught up in the materialism of the holiday when an alien (Strabon) from a distant planet lands in the mundane island town in search of creatures that look like him. He befriends six teenage girls and promises to take them for a ride around the galaxy in his SUV (solar universal venturer). When the girls’ parents learn of the alien, they forbid the girls to see him, assuming that Strabon means them harm. But the alien accidentally takes off with the girls hiding aboard his spaceship, or “fancy tractor” as one of the locals calls it, and their parents quickly learn that “Christmas isn’t Christmas” without family.
Through flamboyant song and dance, the story unfolds, proving that the alien is kind-hearted and teaching the elders in the community to reserve prejudiced judgement of others and instead embrace the adventurous spirit of the youth and the holiday cheer by opening their hearts and minds to peace and unity.
Played to a colourful painted backdrop, with energetic choreography and comedic songs, young and old audience members enjoyed the inclusive holiday performance that, while it was set around Christmas, focused more on values and the spirit of the season rather than singling out typically Christian-themed rituals and references.
The play was directed by Erskine Smith with musical director and conductor Peter Bevan-Baker (the author’s son) and featured Anders Balderston as Officer Sandy Banks, Gerald Lenton as Arthur, Sharon Eyster as Margaret, and siblings Brandon Banks as Strabon, Brittany Banks as Jessica, and Janelle Banks as a member of the chorus.
There’s nothing like a fiddle player and some step dancing to get an Island audience excited, and the closing number of the performance proved that with a shout of “Strike up the band, let’s ceilidh,” leading into a rousing step dancing routine that involved the entire cast.