1 p.m., Oct. 2)
Stock Theatre production a wonderful walk through history
tries to explain to his skeptical wife Jeanette that an old shovel he bought for
$2 would help him find a trunk of gold coins in the Vintage Stock Theatre production
of "Last Seen in Cumberland". Fred Sherwin/Photo
the folks at Vintage Stock Theatre to come up with a production that is 50 per
cent theatre, 50 per cent history lesson and 100 per cent entertaining.
Seen in Cumberland" is the fourth instalment In Vintage Stock Theatre's "Shade
of the Evening" series which explores the history and folklore of Cumberland
Township with the added touch that all the plays take place on the grounds of
the Cumberland Heritage Village Museum, illuminated only by lamplight.
the play begins, Althea and Madeleine Conroy are busy searching for Madeleine's
lost engagement ring with a metal detector when they come across a gold coin with
King George IV's relief on it.
rubbing off some of the tarnish, the date of the coin is revealed -- 1826. Althea
is immediately reminded of a recent conversation she had with some of the townsfolk
about an old legend. Apparently, a paymaster from Montreal had stopped in Cumberland
on his way to Bytown with a trunk full of gold coins to pay the Rideau Canal workers.
his brief stop in the village, he received a letter requesting that he return
to Montreal at once. Not wanting to lug the trunk back with him, he buried it
in the village for safe keeping. As the legend goes, he was never seen or heard
from again and the gold coins remain buried in the ground waiting for someone
to dig them up.
hearing the story, Madeleine seems more interested in the gold than her engagement
starts telling her sister about the early history of the village and one of its
first inhabitants, Amable Foubert who ran a trading post that double as an inn
for wayward travellers.
she starts talking about Foubert, the focus of the play shifts to one of the buildings
on the museum grounds. A young man hurriedly approaches the door and starts calling
out Foubert's name.
young man is the paymaster who has come to solicit Foubert's help in getting the
gold coins to Bytown. The year is 1828.
agrees to help the paymaster hide the gold coins in bales and transport them by
wagon to Bytown. After they agree on their course of action, Foubert retrieves
a letter from the house informing the paymaster to return to Montreal immediately.
paymaster asks Foubert to help him bury the gold for safe keeping, but the older
man wants nothing to do with it. Instead, he convinces the paymaster to bury it
himself and not tell anybody where he put it.
the paymaster walks off, he's followed in the darkness by a shadowy figure carrying
what appears to be a knife. The two men disappear behind a building. After a few
minutes the stillness of the night is interrupted by a blood curdling scream.
the audience moves on to another location guided by the lamp-bearers, Althea and
Madeleine pick up their conversation where they left off.
so the play unfolds. Each of the four subsequent vignettes capture a moment in
time that make up the human history of Cumberland Village with the common thread
being the legend of the Rideau Canal workers' gold.
the second vignette set in 1852, the town Reeve bemoans the fascination of the
village's young men in trying to find the hidden gold.
taking their minds off of hard work and all for the love of gold. Money is the
root of all evil," says the Reeve.
also in the second scene that the audience is introduced to the long ago concept
of statute labour. When the township of Cumberland was first being developed in
the 1850s, it was the duty of every man between the ages of 18 and 80 to provide
at least a day's labour to work on the township's roads. The law remained on the
books until the First World War.
third vignette takes place in the museum church in 1895 where Alice Dunning makes
her daughter Hattie practice her class speech. The talk soon turns to Hattie's
future and her expresses her desire for her daughter to find a man.
has other intentions, however, which don't include getting married or having children.
Besides the man her mother wants her to marry is off looking for the gold armed
with a map that supposedly shows where its buried.
third and most poignant vignette takes place during the depression. William and
Jeanette are about to have their house repossessed. Desperate to keep their home,
William takes two dollars from the food jar and buys an old shovel he's told was
used by Amable Foubert to bury the canal workers gold. He was also told that in
the right hands, it acts as a devining rod.
with the magic shovel, William goes out in the dead of night to try and find the
gold coins. Meanwhile, Jeanette, not knowing what her husband has done, finds
him digging away at the ground in a local farmer's field.
she explains to him that if the shovel really worked, the man who sold it to him
would have used it to find the gold himself, he realizes the error of his ways.
the two turn to go back to their house, a silhouette of a man can be seen standing
on the front porch for several moments and then leaves.
fifth and final vignette is set in 1952 when the Transcanada Highway is buying
built near the village. Ernie and Hank are sitting in front of Hank's house that's
about to be razed to make way for the highway.
the scene plays out, Ernie finds a gold coin in Hank's coat pocket. In an instant
their conversation turns to the legend of the canal workers gold and before long
the two make a pact to share the rest of it 50-50, if they ever find it -- which
they did not, but for several weeks in the spring and summer of 1952 gold fever
once again swept through the village.
play ends with Althea finding Madeleine's ring. As for the gold, to the best of
anyone's knowledge it's never been found. Some say the legend is merely a hoax,
while others like Althea believe that it was never meant to be found in the first
it's just one of those legends that should just continue because it's part of
the history here. It's helped shape the community," Althea says as her sister
turns the metal detector back on "for one last try".
Seen in Cumberland" spins a great yarn, or several yarns, that when sewn
together form a historic tapestry of the local community.
been to all four "Shades of the Evening" productions and I must say
that the acting just keeps getting better every year. "Last Seen in Cumberland"
is the strongest by far with a handful of performances standing out in particular.
Marquis sets the stage with a simply terrific performance as Amable Foubert in
the first vignette. East End Theatre veteran Peter Frayne was equally great as
the township's reeve as was Liz Bakken as Pauline Foubert in the second vignette.
Finally, Sherry Thurig is wonderful as always as the flighty and slightly annoying
performances include: Marni Hunt-Stephens as Althea, Paul Sales as the paymaster;
Pierre Larocque as Amable Foubert's grandson; Miranda Forbes and Olivia Best as
Alice and Hattie Dunning; Dan Smythe and Micheline Mathon as William and Jeannette;
and Chris Story and Michael Yuill as Ernie and Hank. I would be remiss if I didn't
mention that the knife-wielding stranger in the dark was played by none other
than myself on Friday night and Bay Ward Coun. Alex Cullen on Saturday night.
play was co-written by John Cook and Susan Flemming who is also the director,
while Ron Yuill does yeoman's work looking after all the lanterns and managing
the set along with stage manager Kathi Langston.
story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local
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