UBC Players celebrate 100 years of theatre with more theatre

UBC Players have invited audiences through everything from a magical wishing well to talk to a famous homicidal ghost in their Centennial Celebration theatre festival, film and gala event.

Home Fire Burning is the first solo work written by Heidi Elric based on Charles Duncan who – like many others – was sent to fight in World War I and never returned. The piece follows the three children of Charles Duncan — who is played by Garth Barriere, a UBC alumni and a founding member of the UBC Players Club — as they travel through a magical portal to learn about the unfortunate fate of their father.

Genie Duncan (Kimberley Hornaday) has a fiery temper and is the first of the Duncan children to learn about the secret of the wishing well after dropping a penny for her father’s safe return. Clare (Danika Enad) and Earnest (Matt Rhodes) soon join their sibling Genie on this journey.

Elric stirs up nostalgia and celebrates UBC’s 100th birthday by carefully selecting the Duncan children's destinations to be the first plays ever produced by UBC Players Club. These destinations included Fanny and the Servant Problem in which Charles Duncan actually played the doctor in the very first production, Alice Sit by the Fire and lastly The Importance of being Earnest.

Genie is the most troubled of the Duncan children and struggles with defining her role and responsibilities when her father leaves for war. Fanny shares similar struggles with the societal expectations and rules like Genie is. A parallel is drawn between the two ladies as they both question what and who defines their existence. Fanny acts as Genie’s inner voice and comes back to help her through her grief. The tending fire that glows brightly in the background through the travel acts as the tether to home and reality.

Home Fire Burning is an excellent play that instills a sense of nostalgia and imagination that can be shared by the audience. Elric seamlessly wove three stories into her play and cleverly demonstrated her talent for exposition and writing.

Divine Monsters is a humorous and dark play written by Elena Kaufman. The play has a small cast of two people and a few invisible ghostly forces. Martha (Shona Struthers) is a suicidal Canadian musician who was just betrayed by the her lover and feels tired of life. Sarah Bernhardt (Amelia Ross) is a dead ghost who longs to live again and is willing to manipulate and use Martha to achieve her means.

This play is about a clash of times and Kaufman skillfully explores the age gap between Martha, the 21st century girl, and Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923), the finest actress of the times who goes by the nickname of “Divine Sarah.” While Martha truly befriends her new ghostly friend and confides with Sarah about her problems and why she wants to die, Sarah is plotting to switch places with Martha to live and be famous again.

The two share candid moments of exchanging secrets and singing, but Sarah’s selfish desire to use Martha is echoed throughout the play. 

Were Sarah’s seemingly candid stories of childhood and insights sincere or were they a testament to the great actress that she is proclaimed to be? The audience is often left to wonder if the connection formed between Sarah and Martha is genuine knowing Sarah’s ulterior motive to switch places with Martha.

Phones and modern slang run through the dialogue to provide the majority of the entertainment in the play. Kaufman really emphasizes the naiveties of Sarah with regards to the modern world. Martha teaches her new friend about Facebook, technology, societal changes and new expectations in the modern world. Despite their differences, Martha and Sarah share songs that connect the two times and two cultures together. The singing also displays the excellence of the actresses involved.

Divine Monster is an exceptional play that explores the serious issue of suicide in a comical exchange with a famous ghost. Kaufman did an excellent job portraying the divine monster and Martha.

The centennial celebration includes a wonderful cast of actors and commendable efforts to the directors and stage crew.