It’s been a while since I visited The Village Playhouse in Toronto’s Bloor West Village neighbourhood – and last night brought me out to see my friend Victoria Shepherd’s latest directing gig for Gary Kirkham’s play Queen Milli of Galt.
The play was inspired by a true Canadian story: Millicent Milroy, a retired teacher in Galt, Ontario (now Cambridge), caused quite a stir when she had a tombstone made, the inscription describing herself as the wife of King Edward VIII, Duke of Windsor. Bookended with short scenes outside her family home in 1972, where a young journalist visits in an attempt to get her story (shortly after Edward’s death), the play transports the audience back into 1919, the year that Edward – then a young Prince of Wales – was taking a train tour of Canada, including small-town Ontario. The meeting is accidental and the Prince, who introduces himself with his Christian name David, and Milli initially despise each other. And, of course – since this is a love story – the sparring turns into respect, friendship and more.
Shepherd found a lovely cast for this production: Lydia Monet (Milli) and Luke Marty (doing double duty as the journalist and Edward) have lovely chemistry as the young lovers, and it’s great fun to watch as serious, small-town schoolteacher Milli and cheeky playboy royal David find their mutual revulsion transform into friendship and love. Anne McDougall is adorably sweet as Milli’s enthusiastic church lady mother Mrs. Milroy, while David Eden gives a lovely layered performance Edward’s wry-witted, but amiable personal secretary Godfrey, and Caitlin Robson brings some big-city, modern girl dazzle as Milli’s friend, actress Mona.
Those of you who’ve been to the Village know that it’s a bit of a tricky set-up – the small rectangular stage with a support column at the down right corner (dubbed “Andrew”), with audience seated in an L-shaped arrangement around it. Set designer Alexis Chubb did a lovely job of realizing the worlds of the two main characters, with David’s tour train suite stage right (where images were projected on the back wall to evoke time and place, as well as the characters’ thoughts and memories), and the front garden and front door of Milli’s house stage left. Minimal furniture/set pieces for optimal playing space; for scenes taking place elsewhere, including a state ball, the full stage was taken as the new environment – nice staging by director Shepherd on this challenging stage. Shouts as well to costume designer Theresa Arneaud for the fabulous period togs and John Stuart Campbell for the evocative soundtrack, which included both popular tunes of the period and thematic music for scene changes.
Queen Milli of Galt runs until February 2 – ticket reservations are recommended as this show is been very popular (I tried to book the first Sunday matinée and it was already sold out).
Wanna know more about what it’s about? Check out the production’s video, which features Shepherd, Monet and Robson: