Maximum verve

The Shepherd's Play

Venue: The Sugar Refinery

Dates: December 13-15, 2001

Reviewer: Brian Robinson

"So, anyway, I was surfing around and about to check my e-mail, when, Oh, my god…" the hip young thing continued her story to her indifferent group of friends patiently awaiting their drinks. At another table two guys and a girl discuss the virtue of Douglas Coupland becoming a fulltime sculptor now that his latest book lacks cult credibility, they share a pitcher of ale.

In walks a frocked and heavily bearded shepherd. With crook in hand he is bemoaning the trials of life in an unrecognizable dialect. Is it Germanic or Gaelic? Celtic or Yiddish? Or has Chaucer made some fantastic journey? Slowly, his audience attune to his medieval rhyme and metre.

"Hello…yeah…" the intrusion of a cell phone brings disturbed amusement to the bar's ranting, yet jovial, companion. One-by-one two more frocked shepherds arrive, each sharing a poetic tale of woe.

As hard as life is for these three shepherds their misfortunes are set to increase with the arrival of a sheep thief posing as a traveler. While the shepherds sleep with their flocks by night, the thief goes to work taking a member of the flock, played with great panache by a small black dog in sheep's clothing.

Upon being discovered, the thief is viciously beaten to death by the three shepherds. But he no longer has the sheep, it has been given it to his wife, Mary, at home with their baby son.

The shepherds find themselves on a journey, unknowingly, to Mary's home. They take with them gifts of honey and sugar, purloined en route, for her son, Jesus. However, upon their arrival the presence of the sheep, breeds confusion, doubt and distrust.

O.K Theatre, under the direction of Mike Saurette, portray their tale with minimum encumbrances and maximum verve for the rich dialogue and plot. They brought life to a long ago past, not only through their costume and manner, but also through their presentation: The Sugar Refinery could so easily have been a town square with wandering players entertaining the market day crowds.

© 2001, Brian Robinson

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