Footprints on the Moon
Twenty-nine years after its premiere in Winnipeg and being nominated for the Governor General Award and later winning the Labatt Award for Best Canadian Play in 1995, Footprints on the Moon has its European premiere. So, you have to ask yourself, is a play written over 30 years ago and set in a remote Canadian prairie town still relevant today? You bet! This is a wonderful play exploring loss and loneliness as well as friendship and love, beautifully directed by Anastasia Osei-Kuffour.
I highly recommend that you go and see it, but you have to be quick to catch it as there are only six more performances on June 4th, 5th & 6th and June 11th, 12th & 13th at the Finborough Theatre.
Maureen Hunter wrote Footprints on the Moon in the early 1980s, basing the location of the fictional Rose Coulee on Indian Head, population 2,300, in south-eastern Saskatchewan, the town nearest to the farm where she grew up on. This was at a time before internet or cell phones and people all over the Canadian prairie relied on this kind of small to mid sized town for their entertainment, education, work and social life. One thing that Indian Head had going for it, was that is was on the Canadian Pacific Railway route (long since gone), which provided a way out of the town and a chance meeting at Indian Head’s railway station led Maureen Hunter to write this play. She had been visiting her father and was on her way back to her husband in Winnipeg when she bumped into an old school friend, who, unlike her, had stayed in Indian Head, married a farmer’s son and had three children. Talking to her it made her realise how different their lives had become, hers by leaving, her friend’s by staying and she started wondering what she or her friend had lost by their choices.
(click on images to enlarge)
Joanie, the main character of the play is one of those who stayed; her ex-husband Boone is one who left. And now their 16-year old daughter Carol-Ann, after spending a summer holiday with her father, wants to join him in Toronto, but Joanie doesn’t want this to happen, at least not yet. She has been abandoned her whole life, first by her mother, then by Boone, so now she is fighting tooth and nail to keep her daughter with her. Joanie loves the town of Rose Coulee and doesn’t understand why anybody would want to leave. She just doesn’t want things to change, she wants to freeze a bit of time, just like the footprints on the moon.
I thought the whole cast was great, but you have to give special credit to Anne Adams who is terrific as Joanie. She has to go through a gamut of emotions: from flirty to exasperated, optimistic to angry, mischievous to humiliated and everything in-between and she nails it in every scene. Sally Cheng is totally believable as Carol-Ann, Joanie’s moody teenage daughter; behaving exactly like I remember being at that age: stubborn, confrontational, my nose always in a book and dreaming of the places I would go. Joanie’s best friend and next door neighbour Beryl is played wonderfully by Samantha Coughlan, giving the ‘round the block a few times’ cocktail waitress heart and warmth. She is someone who knows her inside out, who doesn’t give up on friendship and who supports Joanie no matter what, be it with words or cakes. Derek Hagan, who portrays Joanie’s sometimes beau Dunc Carr, convinces as the ‘bad boy’ who she can’t say no to (this causes a lot of friction between mother and daughter) as well as the friend, who goes through his own emotional turmoil, but still wants to look out for her, if only she would let him. Nicholas Goh as Boone delivers a solid performance and in his appearance towards the end of the play answers some of Joanie’s (and our) questions.
This play resonated with me on so many levels. I too left my small town after school and couldn’t wait to go out into the big wide world. I too wanted to experience new places. I loved my family, but my curiosity was stronger. And it was only after a while that I realised that I not just gained from leaving, but I also lost. Friendships (though my closest friends are still those from my childhood days), closeness to my family, especially now when we are all getting older; seeing familiar faces and sights, spontaneity (I do miss just turning up on a friend’s doorstep without having to draw up a mission plan) and so much more. It also made me sentimental for simpler times, before all the technology. Sometimes I also wish that I could have frozen moments in time, like those footprints on the moon.
Footprints on the Moon is playing in rep on the set of Jam.
118 Finborough Road
twitter: @finborough, @Footprints_Play