Kourier-Standard, 24 October 2008


The Countess brings 1850s London to Kanata


When veteran director Gwen Knight set out to direct the The Countess, by Gregory Murphy, a play based on real characters and events in 1850s London, she wanted only the best in her Kanata Theatre production team.

First and foremost she sought out set designer Peter Jefferson, who recently garnered a Capital Critics Circle nomination for best community theatre set design in Kanata Theatre's production of The Heiress, another period piece. But where Jefferson's talents last season were concentrated on creating a sumptuous 1800s New York City parlour, the demands this year are quite different. "There are two distinct sets required, and our stage cannot accommodate the two at one time." says director Knight.

As such a minimalist set design, the services of a butler and footman, along with clever lighting and set decor by Steve Truelove and Susan Phillips, and authentic and sumptuous period costumes by Marilyn Valiquette and Jackie Frigon are a must.

The play tells an incredible story of madness, cruelty, and a love triangle between John Ruskin, the brilliant and respected English art critic, his beautiful wife Effie, and the controversial painter John Everett Millais a founder of pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
True to its history the narrative moves from the Royal Academy in London, to a drawing room in South London, to a thatched cottage in Scotland, and finally back to the London drawing room for its shocking climax.

As actors portray the three tempestuous lives, the trusty servants will arrange the set from one locale to another.

The set decor adds mood to the performance with a background of colours from an artist's pallet complemented by mood Lighting. Effie's unhappy but affluent life will be accented by a sumptuous assortment of evening gowns day dresses and walking costumes.
What will remain is for the audience's imagination to fill in the details of time and place. With such a fascinating story this will not be a problem.

Actors Tim Mabey and Venetia Lawless are in character for
Kanata Theatre's  production of The Countess.
The play opens on Nov. 11 at the Ron Maslin Playhouse and runs for two weeks.
Box-office hours are 5 to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday then 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.