The Playhouse Theatre Company
Humble Boy

by Charlotte Jones

Venue: Vancouver Playhouse
Dates: 29 January - 19 February, 2005

Reviewer: Jane Penistan



Director Glynis Leyshon Set and costume design Pam Johnson Lighting design Gerald King Sound design Noah Drew Stage Manager Jessica Chambers

Dean Paul Gibson as Felix

This incredibly beautiful and complex play is admirably presented by the Playhouse Theatre Company, brilliantly directed by Glynis Leyshon. The set is a colourful terraced garden ablaze with flowers, with a conical beehive upstage right. In a mist of smoke, apiarists are collecting bees to be transported elsewhere. When the smoke clears members of the Humble family and their friends appear on the scene.

First is Felix (Dean Paul Gibson), an astrophysicist, returning home from academic life at Cambridge, for his father's funeral. Always searching the universe for answers to problems in his research, Felix has difficulty in finding the right words to express his thoughts. As a shy and diffident man with few social graces, he is at a disadvantage in his mother's socially conscious and very sociable environment.

Flora is his recently widowed mother (Fiona Reid). She is a restless woman, never content with the present status quo, and always dominating. She has no understanding of the intellectuals who are not ambitious or enjoyment seeking. As a companion in her house she has Mercy (Bridget O'Sullivan), an impecunious, gentle, simple spinster, whom she exploits.

Into the tranquil garden bursts the exuberant hard-drinking, hard-living George Pye (Norman Browning), with whom Flora has been having an affair for years. She finds him exciting and he finds her desirable. He has a daughter, Rosie, who was Felix's childhood friend (Megan Leitch).


Peter Millard as the knowledgeable gardener Jim, drifts in and out of the garden, only conversing with Felix, but assuring him that the bees have not all gone, and that there are survivors elsewhere in the garden

Throughout the play Felix is almost never parted from the large honey pot containing his father's ashes. This leads to some macabre humour.

Though an exceedingly intellectual play, this is also a very amusing work, full of lighthearted incidents and some broader laughter provocation. The conflict of humility and ambition and their place in different philosophies is laid out but not resolved. There are innumerable references and parallels to Greek and Christian literature and to Shakespeare, not all of which can be assimilated and appreciated fully in one evening,s enjoyment of this splendidly directed, performed and presented play.

Humble Boy runs at the Vancouver Playhouse, Hamilton and Dunsmuir February 3 - 19, 2005, Monday through Saturday, at 8.00 p.m. with matinees on Saturdays and select Wednesdays and Thursdays at 2.00 p.m. For more information, tickets and reservations call the Production Centre Audience Services at 604-873-3311. Or visit the Box Office, open on days of performances 5.00 p.m. - 8.00 p.m. Monday to Friday and 10.30 a.m. - 8.00 p.m. Saturdays and matinee days.

2005 Jane Penistan