By Jane Litchfield, GAC Volunteer
The stage at Guelph Little Theatre has been set as a 1960s antique shop for 20 months, but the seats in front of it have sat empty all that time. Three weeks before the locally written play Swordfish was set to premiere, the pandemic shut the theatre down. Now at last, the Déjà Vu Antiques shop will come to life, with shows running November 4 to 21.
Swordfish centres around Janet and Dean, a young couple who leave well-paid jobs to open an antique store, much to the dismay of Janet’s mother. When The Mob appears seeking protection money, Janet and Dean fear for their lives and seek comfort through the romance captured in an old diary and everyday interactions with customers. The play is set in Hamilton, a city playwright and co-director Tom Reidel has enjoyed visiting over the years to see Tiger Cat games and – yes – to visit antique stores. Reidel says he wanted the setting to be more local, not the stereotypical U.S. setting.
Reidel describes the play as a dark comedy, with a bit of cartoon flair: “You can expect some death,” but humour dominates. “I want people to go and have some fun – especially now,” Reidel says. “People should leave the theatre feeling good.” Swordfish also offers a chance for folks to see something completely new. “I want to thank GLT for having the audacity to put on something unknown.”
Reidel says there are pluses and minuses to being both playwright and co-director. “I don’t have to talk to anyone if I want to change a word, but there’s more pressure. If something goes wrong it’s my fault.” Swordfish is produced by Guelph writer Marion Reidel, Tom’s spouse, and co-directed by Cathy Goudie.
Reidel says there have been inevitable changes in the cast during the shutdown as people’s lives changed, but he’s thrilled with the current cast. “They are professional in so many ways, even though they are volunteers.” He says his strategy as a director is to “let good people do what good people do.” He says leads Katy Chapman and Arthur Harkins are very natural together and bring something different to a scene every time they perform.
The on-stage antique shop includes many pieces from GLT’s collection and a few Reidel provided personally. Reidel says he occasionally went in to tinker with the incredibly detailed set during the long pandemic shutdown. “I wanted it to be historically accurate for a high-end antique store in 1960s Hamilton.” And yes, you will see a prop swordfish, made by Richard Lay, an area artistic blacksmith.
Reidel says he handled the long postponement relatively well: “I was okay because it was just what life was handing us. Keeping people safe was always number 1.” But he’s happy live theatre is back. “There’s nothing like seeing people emoting right there in front of you.” Pandemic restrictions will still affect the theatre experience. “Sadly, we can’t have a 15-minute intermission where people mill around discussing the show,” Reidel says. There will be a short stretch/washroom break and patrons are asked to bring their own bottle of water to the theatre.
Swordfish tickets are available at GLT’s online box office and are $25 for adults and $20 for children, students, and 60+. GLT is continuing to limit capacity, so when you choose seats and purchase tickets, the software will automatically separate your group from other purchasers. Patrons will be required to show proof of vaccination and provide contact tracing information before entering. Masks are also required.