For playwrights, it's all about the laughter
The Full Mounty, by Bruce Davies and William Matthews, makes its Canadian premiere this week at the Lighthouse Festival Theatre in Port Dover. Cast members include, from left, Davies, Shannon Currie, Allan Cooke, Craig Pike, and Matthews. Contributed photo
Playwrights William Matthews and Bruce Davies had just one thing in mind when crafting The Full Mounty.
“The goal of the play is literally, from the time people walk in and the lights turn on, is to make (the audience) laugh,” said Matthews, who also acts in the world premiere at Lighthouse Festival Theatre. “And joyous laughter - right until the curtain closes and maybe even after that when they’re driving home they’re still chuckling and laughing.”
The script features Gordon, a retired member of the RCMP who is down on his luck and having trouble outrunning his past. He’s become a performer in Las Vegas when he’s drawn into a world of espionage and cover-ups. Gordon is forced to embark on a journey North of the 49th to save Canada from an evil mastermind.
During his travels, Gordon meets a handful of colourful Canadian characters we’re all familiar with.
“All the characters that he meets along the way represent different, quirky, interesting people that you would find in Canada, like gas station attendants, and then you go on to a French Canadian couple, a border guard, who is from Newfoundland,” Matthews added. “It explores all these different parts of the country in a really fun way.”
Both Matthews and Davies are first-time playwrights who actually met as actors in Port Dover. The two realized they had something tangible with The Full Mounty early in the creative process.
“I remember the first day we transitioned from what we call table work... and got it on its feet,” Matthews recalled. “After about half an hour, an hour it was all smiles because you realize this can actually work. It’s a pretty incredible process to go through.”
Joining Matthews, who plays Thug 2, on stage is a cast of Davies (Thug 1), Allan Cooke (Von Baron), Shannon Currie (Betty Ann) and Craig Pike (Gordon).
Being in a show’s premiere allows those involved to set a tone, Currie said.
“Anytime that you’re in new work it’s a challenge because it’s new territory,” said Currie, who is performing at LFT for the first time.
“The freedom in it with the great script that we’ve been given and the wonderful direction and the way that everything’s been set up, (we’ve) been allowed to kind of pave the way and to set I guess what would eventually be a comparative. You get to be here for the first time so anything goes.”
The Full Mounty script has undergone a number of tweaks since the cast began working together, giving every member of the crew a feeling of shared ownership, said Cooke.
The end result has made it tough for the actors to not break up on stage, which is where Cooke, who is making his LFT debut, feels right at home.
“I really like those moments,” he offered. “Especially for something like this where we’re very open about the comedy anyway. The performers and the characters are kind of aware of the audience there as well, so the audience are very much let in on the joke. So if we’re feeling it, it’s a nice invitation for the audience to feel it too.”
Putting the resumes of the cast and director Ralph Small together equals a litany of projects from across Ontario both on stage and on screen. Together they all share the vision Matthews and Davies originally intended.
“The point is to come in with an open heart and be willing to laugh and not to take the theatre too serious, which is a fun part about this show,” Currie explained. “It has an awareness of itself and we’ll play the truth of it and we’ll let the audience enjoy the comedic fantasy of it.”
The Full Mounty runs June 14-30 at LFT. More information on the show and the entire summer lineup at LFT is available at lighthousetheatre.com.