Following its months-long closure due to the pandemic, Halifax’s Neptune Theatre re-opens the doors to Fountain Hall. But it may not be for what you think as it becomes a temporary cinema for a limited run of Thom Fitzgerald’s film Splinters.
But while the live theatre venue will temporarily transform, the award-winning 2018 film does have connections to the stage.
Based on Halifax playwright Lee-Anne Poole’s play of the same name, the idea to adapt Splinters to the big screen came to Fitzgerald a decade ago after seeing a production of the drama by Plutonium Playhouse, the Halifax indie theatre company he founded in 2010.
“I saw Lee-Anne’s stage play and loved the very contemporary take on a coming-out story,” says Fitzgerald. “Especially the idea that coming out is not a one-time thing for anybody but especially for people with an evolving sense of self.”
Going on to call it a beautiful family tale of a mother and daughter struggling to come to terms with each other, Fitzgerald sums up the story:
“Splinters tells the story of twenty-something Belle, who returns to the Annapolis Valley for her father’s funeral. After causing her mother consternation when she came out as a teenage lesbian, she’s now very reluctant to reveal that she has been dating a man for some time.”
Changing as little as possible in adapting Poole’s play to film, Fitzgerald did expand on it.
“The stage play was four characters and entirely set in the kitchen,” he says. “I opened it up in terms of the space by setting it on the family farm because even though you can be outdoors amongst beautiful vistas, it is still their home, and yet it maintains a sense of intimacy. Then I brought in more layers of their family in terms of a circle of distant relatives and then the entire community who come together to grieve a loss.”
Adding another connection to the Neptune stage is Nova Scotia actor Shelley Thompson who received both ACTRA and Atlantic Film Festival performance awards for her role as Belle’s mom Nancy.
Partway through the company’s production of Calendar Girls, the run was cut short by the pandemic lockdown. And while the mediums of stage and film are vastly different, Thompson agrees it is a bittersweet return to Fountain Hall.
“It’s delightful, and it is weird like this whole world is weird,” says Thompson. “We closed Calendar Girls on March 13, and I was having such a beautiful time with this group of amazing women. None of us knew it would be this devastating for our community and all these people who can’t get back on stage.”
Witnessing a struggle with a lack of community that goes beyond the footlights because of the pandemic, Thompson is encouraged by Neptune’s re-opening, even if it is not for its regular use.
“It is such a wonderful thing to encourage people in our region, where we are so blessed by the low levels of COVID, to get back into a space where we can feel things as a community again,” she says.
As someone with one foot in film and one foot in live theatre, Fitzgerald saw the Neptune screening of Splinters as a perfect union.
“This seemed like an opportunity to do something really special in Halifax and release the film in a way that could benefit Neptune that has had to be closed for six months,” he says.
“We are very excited to welcome a physically-distance audience back into the theatre,” says Neptune’s artistic director, Jeremy Webb. “With the theatre closed to full stage production right now due to COVID-19 restrictions, it’s a pleasure to welcome people back into the building safely for this presentation.”
For those who are perhaps not quite ready to go back into the theatre or cannot make it to Halifax, Splinters will also be available for streaming on the Neptune at Home platform.
Splinters opens at Neptune Theatre’s Fountain Hall (1593 Argyle St, Halifax) for in-person screenings on October 23 and continue through November 8 and will also be available for digital. Visit neptunetheatre.com or neptuneathome.com for tickets and information.