Part of Shakespeare By The Sea’s special summer series, Halifax’s Keep Good (Theatre) Company presents the premiere of Gillian Clark’s Adventures at a secret location in Point Pleasant Park.
“It’s very raw honest and I know now more than ever we need to be reminded of the magic of coming together, sharing an experience and being vulnerable and letting ourselves be afraid.” – director Luciana Silvestre Fernandes
But while Adventures takes its original inspiration from J.M. Barrie’s classic story of Peter Pan, its connection to the original tale of the boy who wouldn’t grow up has changed over the years.
Initially starting to write Adventures in her twenties, Clark began thinking about how she was not interested in having children at the time. Eight years later, she is very much thinking about motherhood.
“I wrote the play originally starting with the source material of Peter Pan, but I think it’s definitely grown up from that,” says Clark, describing Adventures as a story of two teens deciding whether or not they believe in magic.
“I’m entering my thirties and thinking about bringing a baby into the world now,” Clark continues. “The magic of the world feels different from when you’re twenty to when you’re thirty.”
The motherhood theme is front-and-center as a 300-year-old-tree narrates the story of how the teens ended up standing on her highest branch, deciding whether they will fly, fall, or jump.
Taking to the outdoors for the final iteration of Adventures has been another natural progression for Clark’s play, originally intended to be performed in a more traditional theatre last November before the pandemic had other plans.
“At that time it just seemed natural to take it outside, especially with the addition of the Mother Tree as the play’s narrator,” says Clark.
For director Luciana Silvestre Fernandes it has been the process of discovering new layers within Clark’s text that drew her to helm the project.
“It’s very raw and honest,” she says. “And I know now more than ever we need to be reminded of the magic of coming together, sharing an experience and being vulnerable and letting ourselves be afraid.”
A solo show, Adventures stars Halifax-based director, actor and teacher Ann-Marie Kerr. It took some convincing by the playwright to convince her to take on the project.
“I would say the core thing is that it’s a very, very beautiful look at hope,” says Kerr. “Gill has talked about feeling really stuck and really frightened about ever bringing a baby into this world. It feels selfish and absurd that we’re giving this child this world, but it digs a little bit and ultimately feels pretty transcendent towards something good.”
It has also helped that director and actor have the playwright in the rehearsal room.
“It’s this group of wonderful, generous humans with open hearts,” says Fernandes. “As they say, theatre is the art of collaboration, but it’s also often absurdly hierarchical. And it doesn’t feel that way. No one is coming in with ego, and it is really nice to bounce ideas between us with everyone making offers and we can test it together to see what lands.”
“I think that is a really important dynamic,” says Clark. “Especially being a writer during the pandemic as it is deeply lonely. So it’s really exciting to be able to come together and with these two very fun, funny people.”
While Adventures plays out in the woods of Point Pleasant Park this summer, Kerr’s work will live on with a companion audiobook.
“It is a nice companion piece if you don’t live in Halifax and can’t make it to the show, or you love the show and want someone else to experience it, or if you want to continue experiencing this beautiful thing,” says Kerr.
It is a sentiment Fernandes echos about the play itself.
“It is beautiful,” she says. “It reminds you that you’re human as it connects you to people and nature and gives you hope.”
For the playwright, it is all about taking a moment to gather and experience the magic of ourselves and theatre.
“There’s something that feels super special about this moment in time and to acknowledge what it means,” says Clark. “Not only to gather but to gather together, to listen to a story.”
“It is a wonderful thing to sit under this tree and have a show played for you with the sea right there and you can hear and see the water in this gorgeous setting,” adds Kerr.
With a start time of 9:15 pm, audiences can take in both Shakespeare by the Sea’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Keep Good (Company) Theatre’s Adventures in the same evening. However, while a children’s book may have inspired Adventures, it does come with an audience advisory and is intended for mature audiences only.
Adventures runs at a secret location in Point Pleasant Park from August 24 through August 29. Tickets are available online on a pay-what-you-can basis or at the door for $30 general admission ($20 for the under-waged). Visit keepgoodadventures.com for more information.