Beyond the everyday politics, 0ne question reigns true: who makes the law of the land?
Written by Peter Anderson and scored by John Millard, Law of the Land returns home to Caravan Farm Theatre July 24 to Aug. 26.
Originally produced and toured by Caravan in 1982, Law of the Land is set in a fictional B.C. town prior to the Black Creek Coal Fired Thermal Generating Power Plant’s grand opening. Set in a town where cowboys fall in love with environmentalists and animals put humans on trial, Law of the Land is an electrifying farce brought to the stage by the same team behind The Ballad of Weedy Peetstraw last summer.
“The Ballad of Weedy Peetstraw was more like a musical Faustian drama. This is a flat-out farce with unapologetic humour,” said artistic director Estelle Shook.
Delegates from Russia, China and the United States are in town to tour the plant and test their hunting mettle. While some are stoked on coal, others are more skeptical. Clara, a rancher next door brought to life by Randi Helmers of The Ballad of Weedy Peetstraw Hellhound fame, refuses to uproot despite her ranch hands having long abandoned her cause.
The local scientist Hattie (Elizabeth Barrett) is occupied with troublesome fluorine levels and Brenda (Naomi Vogt), the local cop, is working to unravel what she believes is a terrorist plot and local animals Beaver (Karin Ranodja), Cougar (Jimmy Tait) and deer (Elinor Holt) battle nervous breakdowns.
But, when the Lone Ranger and a wily Coyote (Anderson) with a plan enter the stage, the crisis unfolds.
Anderson said he considered remodelling Law of the Land for the modern era prior to reviving the show, but opted instead to set the production in the near future.
“The coal plant was so woven in that it wouldn’t have made sense,” Anderson said. “In a way, I’m really glad we stuck with that. It lifts the play out of the topical. It’s good to have distance.”
Given the current climate surrounding pipelines in British Columbia, Anderson and Shook agreed that Law of the Land is as relevant as it was in 1982.
“There has been such divisive debate. Each side, to them, has compelling arguments,” Shook said. “Everyone has an opinion. Everybody wants some energy but no one wants to pay. But who makes the law of the land?”’
However, Shook said, while the production does provoke thought, at its core Law of the Land is meant to entertain.
“The music is definitely this year in John Millard’s wheelhouse,” Shook said. “It’s very musical. It’s almost completely underscored. The music goes so well with the comedy.”
Millard’s five-piece band is comprised of Holt on trombone, Sheldon Valleau on bass ukulele, Ajineen Sagal on fiddle, Jay Burr on tuba and Matti Pulkki on accordion.
In addition to music adding to the comedic impact, Shook said masked characters add levity to the ponderous subject matter.
“It’s very much a Caravan tradition because masks are fun,” Shook said, noting that seven characters wear masks crafted by Catherine Hahn.
Law of the Land’s 45 member cast and crew features multiple returning favourites, including Tait, Helmers, Holt, Sagal, Colin Heath (Bomber) and Anderson, who will be at Caravan for the first time since 2001.
Anderson said he’s excited to be back.
“(It feels) fantastic. It was a part I really wanted to play. It was as if I wrote the part myself,” Anderson jested.
Shook said a key factor that drives both the audience and cast to return is the farm setting on which the theatre is situated.
“When you come to Caravan, it’s an event,” Shook said. “Once you get here, you can make it a complete experience.”
Tickets are available through the Ticket Seller, 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca. Tickets for preview nights July 24-25 are $20 adult, $18 seniors and $10 youth. Early Bird July 27-29 and Aug. 1-3 are $24.50 adult, $23.25 seniors and $10.50 youth. Regular Aug. 4-26 are $35, $33 and $15 respectively. “Pay what you can nights” are July 31, Aug. 7, 14 and 21 and are no reservations, first-come-first-served. 25 per cent discount available for groups of six or more. Bring blankets or cushions for the bleacher seats. Tailgate picnics encouraged.