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(Posted 9:30 a.m., Dec. 8)

Vintage Stock's holiday offering a tribute to days gone by
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Sara Perron plays Maria, the daughter of a French Canadian trapper, portrayed by Pierre-Paul Filion, in the Vintage Stock Theatre production of 'First Christmas - Le Premier NoŽl'. Fred Sherwin/Photo


The Vintage Stock Theatre company's latest production of "First Christmas - Le Premier NoŽl" is a wonderful throwback to the earliest days of community theatre when budding thespians performed wherever they could find a space.

This usually meant having to perform in community halls like the Lions Maple Hall in Cumberland Village; schools, if they were big enough; and even barns, without the benefit of lights or sound equip.m.ent.

"First Christmas - Le Premier NoŽl" is being performed in the rather austere confines of the Orange Hall at the Cumberland Heritage Village Museum.

The play is set in 1805 and tells the story of Eustace, an English-speaking surveyor played by David Clemis, who is rescued by a French-speaking trapper, played by Pierre-Paul Filion, after he gets lost in a snowstorm and falls through the ice on a nearby river.

The trapper takes Eustace to his cabin deep in the bush and nurses him back to health. The two men who are thrown together by fate, celebrate Christmas morning far away from their loved ones, but not before they almost come to blows thanks to their inability to communicate with each other.

During his convalescence, Eustace thinks about his departed mother who is played by Sarah Benfield. During these recollections, we learn that Eustace's father was English and that despite his mother being French, the language of the household was also English.

The trapper's story is told by his daughter Maria, played by Sara Perron, who is being raised by the parish priest while her father scratches out a living in the bush.

The two male roles are acted out almost entirely in mime as the story is told through a narrator. All the dialogue referring to the trapper is in French while the ooposite is true for Eustace, which makes it difficult to follow the plot line unless you have a working knowledge of both languages.

The stark confines of the Orange Hall is a perfect setting for the play which takes place entirely in the trapper's cabin. The small cast is terrific, as is Peter Holt who transitions from French to English and back again with barely a bobble in his role as the narrator.

The play was written by Vintage Stock Theatre veteran Marni Hunt-Stephens, based on a story by Susan Flemming, and adapted and directed by another long-time member of the theatre company, John Cook.

A second performance of "First Christmas - Le Premier NoŽl" will be held on Friday, Sept. 16at 1:30 p.m. Admission is included in the gate price for the museum which is holding their annual Cultural Christmas on the same day. Tickets are $12 for adults, $6 for children 12 and under and $30 for a family of four.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

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