6:30 p.m., Dec. 10)
Vintage Stock production sheds light on misunderstood former p.m.
By Fred Sherwin
"Meeting Mr. Bennett" tells the story of an Ontario family plunged into
poverty during the Great Depression and a young girl's encounter with former Prime
Minister R.B. Bennett. Fred Sherwin/Photo|
Bedford Bennett was Canada's 11th Prime Minister. He was also Canada's richest
and most reviled Prime Minister, having the misfortune of coming to power at the
height of the Great Depression.
may also be Canada's most misunderstood Prime Minister, a claim explored brilliantly
by Cumberland playwrite Susan Flemming in Vintage Stock Theatre's latest production
"Meeting Mr. Bennett" on this weekend at the Shenkman Arts Centre.
has a knack for recognizing historic similarities and weaving them into her plays.
In "Meeting Mr. Bennett" she deftly mirrors the social and economic
issues of the early 1930s with what politicians of all stripes are facing today.
instance, during the play's opening prologue, R.B. Bennett complains about the
out-of-work rabble that have set up a tent city outside the windows of his Chateau
Laurier office, in clear reference to the "Occupy" movement that swept
across North America.
how about this comparison provided by Wikipedia: "He was elected with such
promise and such high expectations that he could never have met them." Remind
you of a present day leader?
is certain is that Bennett was a complex individual. He was raised on a subsistence
farm in New Brunswick and put himself through law school. After graduating from
Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia he
rose through the social-economic ranks to become the head of the E.B. Eddy Company.
had a total and utter disdain for layabouts and do-nothings, but a generosity
that would make most modern-day philanthropists pale in comparison.
his tenure as Prime Minister he received thousands of letters from impoverished
individuals who we would help out monetarily. Historians estimate that he gave
away as much as $2.5 million.
first learned about Bennett's philanthropy when she came across a book containing
some of the letters Bennett received.
the opening prologue his assistant Arthur Merriam reads through some of the letters
including one from a little boy needed three dollars to buy a red wagon.
Mr. Bennett" tells the story of Abigail Grant who wrote to Bennett, not to
gain any monetary favour, but to criticize him for failing to help put people
back to work. Her own father had lost his job and had to move away to try and
provide for his family. The story is told through a series of flashbacks present
Dennis Grant has purchased Abigail's family home which she has lived in all her
life. His daughter Aislinn, played by Erin MacDonald, befriends Abigail who is
now 96, and invites her to visit whenever she feels like it. During one of these
visits Abigail tells the young girl about the time the Prime Minister of Canada
came to meet her in Linwood.
their brief encounter, Bennett tries to explain to the younger Abigail about the
diffculties the country faces in trying to dig its way out of the recession. Before
he leaves, he places a $20 bill in the family's money jar without Abigail seeing
makes "Meeting Mr. Bennett" such a wonderful play are the powerful performances
delivered by the incredible cast. Fresh off his performance in the Orleans Young
Players production of "The Nutcracker", Randy Bellini is simply superb
in the lead role of R.B. Bennett.
Hunt Stephens is oustanding as well as the elderly Abigail Tibbets, and Olivia
Walker does a fantastic job as the younger Miss Tibbets. But the performance that
stood out the most for me was Amber Boucher's portrayal of Mrs. Anne Tibbets.
the surprise perfrormance on the opening night was delivered by Lynn Lebel, who
plays an overbearing, and I mean that in more ways than one, real estate agent.
rest of the talented cast includes as Jim Tanner as Arthur Merriam, David Loveridge
as Dennis Grant, Nick Wilson as Thomas Tibbets, Rebecca Lebel as Mabel Tibbets,
and Kayleigh Vantour as Rosie Tibbets.
with an outstanding script and an excellent cast must have made the job of directing
"Meeting Mr. Bennett" a total joy for the play's director Arras Hopkins
and producer /stage manager Louisa Hache.
but least, I would be remiss not to mention the brief video that is used as a
backdrop in the closing scene. The balck and white clip shows a series of local
actors in cameo roles portraying ordinary people from the period.
Mr. Bennett" is on tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Richcraft Theatre at the Shenkman
Arts Centre. Tickets are $15 per person and $12 for children 13 and under.
A young Abigail Tibbets talks politics at her family's kitchen table with Canada's
11th prime minister, R.B. Bennett, in Vintage Stock Theatre's production of 'Meeting
Mr. Bennett'. Fred Sherwin/Photo|
story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local
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