‘Bursts of hilarity’ in new East Side Players production

The East Side Players opened their 44th season last night with Lettice and Lovage written by Peter Shaffer in 1987, and later revised in 1988. Those familiar with Shaffer’s work know he also authored Equus and Amadeus.

The play, being performed at Todmorden Mills’ Papermill Theatre, follows a flamboyant tour guide, Lettice Douffet, who cannot help but embellish the dull history of Fustian House to wild and increasingly ridiculous lengths. Her theatrical performances captivate the tourists, although what she says is highly fictitious.

Lotte Schoen, owner of the historic estate home and Preservation Trust worker, is furious over Miss Douffet’s inaccurate fancies and sacks her. She prefers the truth and nothing besides.

The two ladies could not be more different but they manage to find common ground in their love of history. Lettice introduces Lotte to the world of historical re-enactments when something goes terribly wrong.

Jan Francies is the show’s director and says the play was challenging to produce.

“In a community theatre, especially in a space this size, we usually have one set,” Francies said. “With this play, we have three sets. It was an enormous challenge.”

Despite the difficulties, the scene changes are pleasingly synchronized.

The play itself is very wordy. Lettice’s love of theatre is evident through her eloquent speech. Her mother ran a Shakespearean theatre in France, and it rubbed off on her.

Francies says that the theatre rarely tackles Shakespeare. However, in this play, it is referenced many times.

Heather Goodall plays Lettice and she said it was a lot of work.

“I started with the script in June and I gave myself a page to memorize every day for three months and there are 110 pages,” Goodall said. “But when you start rehearsing, it solidifies everything.”

Certain scenes are a little drawn-out, but bursts of hilarity are splashed throughout for an enjoyable experience.

Following its debut last night, the production runs through this weekend, and then Wednesday through Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 until Nov. 12. Tickets are $20; $15 for students. The Papermill Theatre is off Pottery Road — still accessible by car from Bayview Avenue, and on foot from Broadview. For tickets, visit www.eastsideplayers.ca or call 416-425-0917.

The East Side Players are running two other plays, Rapture and The Hypochondriac, in the coming months. Both are Canadian premieres.