Mortal Coil's site specific theatre project uses The Sharing Farm to help tell its story
Mortal Coil's site specific theatre project uses The Sharing Farm to help tell its story. Photo by Tim Matheson.

Fairies, puppets, farmers, and woodland creatures all come together in a site-specific performance of Mortal Coil’s The Faerie Play at The Sharing Farm in Richmond, an urban farm that grows food to feed that community’s families in need.

Following on the success of Mortal Coil’s production of Salmon Row at Steveston’s Britannia Shipyards a couple years ago, this site-specific play is a re-working of a piece that had its origins some twelve years ago.

“The original play was conceived by a couple of actors and puppeteers in the interior who have an organic farm near Enderby,” says Peter Hall, director of the show. “They wanted to do a show with their kids aged four to eight and they wrote this show that promoted agriculture, farming and told the story about a little girl who is stolen by the resident fairies on the farm.”

Using the Enderby production as the basis for this new version, the team at Mortal Coil have adapted the story to take advantage of The Sharing Farm location.

“James Gates, the executive director at The Sharing Farm, had seen our production of Salmon Row at the shipyards and invited us to visit the farm. He asked if we could so something similar to help raise the profile of the farm. We took one look and immediately knew we wanted to do a show here,” says Hall.

With its story of a young girl stolen by the fairies that live on the farm, The Faerie Play is as much about telling its magical tale with music and puppets as it is about introducing urban families to the farm’s various occupants. And while Hall says that it might sound a bit twee, there is definitely something for the entire family to enjoy.

“The target for the show is kids aged five to eleven, but with the humour and artistry in the show I am confident anyone of any age will be quite charmed by it,” he says.

That artistry includes puppets with a First Nations feel to them created by Joseph Paul, one of the company’s First Nations actors, his mother and Frank Rader, the company’s puppet master

Sharon Bayly and Mackenzie Paul perform in The Faerie Play at The Sharing Farm in Richmond. Photo by Tim Matheson.
Sharon Bayly and Mackenzie Paul perform in The Faerie Play at The Sharing Farm in Richmond. Photo by Tim Matheson.

“Between Joseph, his mom and Frank they have created these amazing puppets out of wood and woven shawls,” says Hall. “There is even a wonderful carved and woven raffia cooper hawk that will be flown over the audience.”

Ensuring the location remains a focal point, Hall and the Mortal Coil designers are highlighting many the residents that one might find on the The Sharing Farm, including the two-legged human variety, animals, and even some of the produce that is grown there. And to prove just how integral the farm is to the story, the play unfolds as The Sharing Farm’s real-life farmers tend to their crops. Hall has even cast two of the farmers in roles.

Also involved are members of Tsatsu Stalquayu Coastal Wolfpack and a number of children from Richmond Theatre’s Gateway Academy, a relationship that Hall and the team have built on since Salmon Row.

“Part of our company’s mandate is diversity and we have a number of kids from the Academy from all kinds of backgrounds. We have Chinese, Korean and Filipino, and even an entire First Nations family involved this year,” he explains.

But the real star of this show remains The Sharing Farm where its primary focus is on growing organic vegetables to feed Richmond’s Food Bank, is joined by an abundance of flowers, grasses and a shady woodlot inhabited by owls and cooper hawks.

“If ever there was a natural site that called out to Mortal Coil to weave its theatrical magic, it would be The Sharing Farm,” says Hall. “This Richmond gem lends itself perfectly to our company’s style of using puppets, stilts, mask and music.”

The Faerie Play takes place at The Sharing Farm (2771 Westminster Highway, Richmond) August 5-25. Visit http://www.mortalcoil.bc.ca for tickets and information.