Guild Festival Theatre Brings Canada’s Favourite Literary Redhead to Life
Are you looking to enjoy an evening of theatre in a beautiful park setting? Luckily, Toronto has many opportunities for just such an evening. One you might not know about is Anne, currently presented by Guild Festival Theatre at Guild Park and Gardens in Scarborough. It might not get as much attention as some larger productions. But this adaptation of L.M. Montgomery’s novel Anne of Green Gables, with script by Paul Ledoux, is definitely worth the trek to the east side of the city.
I have to admit it’s been a while since I’ve read Anne of Green Gables, so my memory of the details was a little fuzzy. Once the production started, however, everything came flooding back, and I was captivated. Directed by Helen Juvonen and Tyler J. Seguin, Anne captures the fun and spirit of the red-headed orphan taken in by a middle-aged brother and sister on Prince Edward Island.
I thought all of the actors gave strong performances. In particular, Claire Boudreau plays the titular role of Anne Shirley with spunk and imagination. I thought she perfectly captured Anne’s wide-eyed excitement and penchant for the dramatic. I really liked how she physically embodied the role of an eleven-year-old girl. Her facial expressions and foot-stomping were spot on. I also really enjoyed Michael McLeister’s performance as Matthew Cuthbert. He was bewildered but enchanted by this strange girl, and his affection for her was palpable. Beneath his taciturn exterior was a sense of humour and fun.
I particularly liked the use of music in the production. There are bits of singing both incorporated into the story and used as transitional elements between scenes. All of the actors sing well and most play instruments. The musical interludes felt seamless and added another layer to the performance.
I also thought the production made great use of the outdoor setting. Most of the action takes place in front of the Greek columns and archways in Guild Park. But the actors move around the aisles and in front of the “stage’’ as well. In one funny moment, Anne actually climbs up and clings to one of the columns (it’s supposed to be a bridge piling) to save herself from a capsized boat.
There weren’t many kids in the audience the night I attended. But I think Anne would definitely be appropriate for young people, especially those that are familiar with the novel. The kids that were there seemed to be having a great time.
Though I could do without the mosquitoes (tip – bring bug spray), outdoor theatre is one of my favourite things about Toronto in the summer. Grab a friend and head to Scarborough for Guild Festival Theatre’s Anne. It’s a lot of fun and a relaxed, communal way to add a little culture to your week.
- Anne is playing at Guild Park and Gardens (201 Guildwood Parkway) until August 10, 2019
- Performances are Wednesday – Sunday at 7:30pm
- Tickets are $30 for adults, $10 for children under 12, and $25 for students/seniors/arts workers and can be purchased online
Photo of Claire Boudreau and Michael McLeister provided by the company