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Friday, June 14, 2024

Theatre review: The Drawer Boy has the courage to be plain good

Story is the focus in this Ensemble Theatre Company production

In our modern theatrical landscape, looking to meet the threat of Netflix with an ever-rising need to push boundaries, it seems almost refreshing to see a company willing to do a simple story, well told. Ensemble Theatre Company’s The Drawer Boy is just that. It is simply good theatre.

Morgan and Angus are two bachelor farmers living out their days in peaceful monotony on their farm in rural Ontario. But that peace is broken with the anxious knock of a young actor from Toronto, Miles Potter. Looking to immerse himself in farm life to enhance his contribution to his devised theatre show, Miles begins to shine an unwelcome light on the cracks between the two farmers.

As the taciturn farmer Morgan, Darcey Johnson is grounded and firm with a gravitas that belies his age. As Miles, Chris Lam matches him in presence as the out-of-touch actor with a desire to find authenticity in the literal shit of the country.

It is James Gill though, as the war vet whose accidental meetup with a memory thieving slice of shrapnel, who creates the beating heart of the play. He is simple and stiff, yet full of eruptive vulnerability. He is a treat to watch.

Darcey Johnson and Chris Lam in the Ensemble Theatre Company production of The Drawer Boy. Photo by Zemekiss Photography.
Darcey Johnson and Chris Lam in the Ensemble Theatre Company production of The Drawer Boy. Photo by Zemekiss Photography.

Alaia Hamer’s set and costume design is period appropriate, with nods of familiarity that resonate without pulling focus. Lighting from Sara Smith and Michael Chambers’ music also work to enhance without distracting.

The Drawer Boy is a play where every element works in concert with the others to create quality theatre. The acting is solid, the technical side is effective, and the direction is clean. Does it have a ton of flash or flair? Not really. Does it need it? Not at all.

Under Alan Brodie’s direction this production makes no effort to push its script into new directions, or stage it in a different way. It simply does what’s written on the page. This production does it so well that it will remind you that sometimes the most courageous theatre is that which tells its story and does it well. The Drawer Boy is that most lovely thing to see on stage. It is simply good work.

The Drawer Boy by Michael Healey. Directed by Alan Brodie.  Produced by The Ensemble Theatre Company. Playing in repertory with Born Yesterday and Superior Donuts on stage at the Jericho Arts Centre (1675 Discovery St, Vancouver) until August 14, 2019. Visit for tickets and information.

Editor’s Note (16 July): the interview was edited to correctly identify Alan Brodie as the director.

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