Theatre In Review: The Drawer Boy

Theatre Passe Muraille kicked off its 40th anniversary last night with a remount of the smash hit from its 1999 season, The Drawer Boy, by Michael Healy. One of the most mature and relevant plays to come out of the country, it typified not only the roots of Canadian Theatre but also the arts and culture and its connection to the community.

Theatre Passe Muraille , opened in 1968 by a group of Rochdale College students here in Toronto, gained its truest form in the 1970s under the Artistic Directorship of Paul Thompson, who guided the company towards a distinctive style of collective creation with plays such as The Farm Show. The play had Toronto actors going into Clinton, Ontario, and staying, working and trying to capture the life of the farmers of the town. They presented the play to the farmers and toured it to other towns eventually bringing it back to Toronto. The style was based on the groups collective creation of ideas that each company member would bring in from their experiences. Theatre Passe Murraille became the foremost alternative theatre in the city that gleaned its works from this very style.

Recently the city bought the theatre building to avoid its possible closing, thanks in large part to Councillors like Kyle Ray, in attendance last night at the opening. The Drawer Boy was the perfect play to start off the season as it dealt with actor Miles Potter's experiences years before while living on a farm to research and develop The Farm Show.

"The Drawer Boy is about the need for truth and the power of theatre", says director Ruth Madoc-Jones. "It is about love and loss, friendship and loyalty, pain and forgiveness. The story is of two farmers who invite a young artist intent on writing a play about them into their home. Through a series of funny and painful events the three men find themselves and their lives transformed."

With over 500 productions going through the door newly appointed Artistic Director Andy McKim thanked the crowd for their generous contributions, with much of the theatre filled with the many faces of those 500 productions, a veritable who's who in the history of Toronto theatre. The energy was incomparable. Layne Coleman, the outgoing Artistic Director, chose this show in his first season there and wanted to start his last with it as well. Fitting as he himself was one of the original touring members of the Farm Show in 1972.

The production, which talks about the importance of theatre to its community and the true aim of artists in this country, is written so well and has so many funny and poignant moments that it is truly the pinnacle of Canadian theatre at it best.

Drawer Boy runs at Theatre Passe Murraille until to November 18, 2007

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