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The Drawer Boy belongs on the drawing board

by | Jul 21, 2019 | Review | 4 comments

Ensemble Theatre Company is presenting The Drawer Boy at the Jericho Arts Centre.

(L-R) Darcey Johnson, Angus Gill, and Chris Lam confront each other about why The Drawer Boy is so listless. (Photo by Zemekiss Photography)

***Guest review by David Johnston

My editor would probably ask me to rewrite this review if I just made it the word “NO” in 128-point font, so let’s get through this as painlessly as possible.

Farmer friends Morgan (Darcey Johnson) and Angus (James Gill) have their normal routine upended when aspiring actor and human plot device Miles (Chris Lam) shows up to their farmhouse and asks to live there for a few weeks for research purposes. They agree to his request for unexplained reasons, probably boredom. Morgan is a deadpan crab who derives perverse pleasure in yanking Miles’s chain about the specifics of farming. Angus has deep-rooted memory problems from a skull injury sustained during World War II. He’s also a savant with numbers and arithmetic, because that trope isn’t offensive or hackneyed at all. 

Will Miles’s presence upset the delicate balance and stir up old painful memories about what really happened during the war?

Yes. It will. And it won’t be particularly interesting along the way.

I don’t throw the word “incompetent” around lightly, but it could unfortunately apply to almost every aspect of this production. Director Alan Brodie seems to have no idea how to stage a play on the Jericho Arts Centre’s thrust stage, and winds up with blocking that favours turned backs and hidden faces. The pace is lethargic at best and legally dead the rest of the time.

The scene changes are often overlong and scored to generic farm-grade Muzak, usually to cover costume changes. Speaking of costumes, Alaia Hamer dresses Angus and Morgan in a series of pristine, freshly ironed overalls and pants that look like they’ve never seen a day’s labour in their lives.

The acting has a few positives buried in it. Johnson fares the best, as his dry delivery gives way to a handful of thoughtful grace notes late in the second act. Lam has one nice speech in which he recounts the plot of Hamlet. Gill rattles off a couple of legitimately heart-wrenching moans during one traumatic moment. But averaging everything out, the trio never overcomes the utter lack of pace and stakes.

I could go on. I’d prefer not to. Send it back for a month of full-time rehearsals and then perhaps it’ll be ready for an audience.

THE DRAWER BOY by Michael Healey. Directed by Alan Brodie. An Ensemble Theatre Company production. At the Jericho Arts Centre on Saturday, July 20. Continues as part of Ensemble Theatre Company’s 7th Annual Repertory Festival until August 14. Tickets.


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  1. Claire Carolan

    Wow. This is more than a bit harsh. Johnston would be lucky to have as long and lustrous a theatre career as Alan Brodie. Spewing negativity isn’t reviewing.

    • Jim

      I absolutely agree with you Claire! Five of us went tonight and we all thoroughly enjoyed it.
      This review, if I can call it that, is vitriolic… he seems to be showing off just how mean and nasty he can be… it’s not sufficient to just stick the knife in when you can finish the sentence with an added twist of the handle. Was this an ill-conceived approach to enhance his self-image as a “really serious critic” who can really dish it out? I do not know who David Johnston is but my first guess would be a very young person trying to establish a career as a critic and wanting to make a big splash and leave his mark. Anyone reading this… please go see the play… you’ll love it!

  2. Marilyn Chaney

    We went to see The Drawer Boy and were delighted. The acting was great and the performance left one in expectation especially at the end of Act I. Did you actually see the show? Are you sure you are a critic? Sounds like you just like trashing others.

  3. Catherine Miller

    We went to see the Drawer Boy and thoroughly enjoyed it. The acting was great, the story kept us in suspense. David Johnston is spewing negativity very unfairly on a small theatre company. Did he see the same play as we did? He should go back to school and learn how to be a constructive critic instead of writing such destructive comments.


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