Red Deer College theatre studies students are putting the finishing touches on their latest production – Major Barbara – set to open Feb. 8th on the Arts Centre mainstage.
The engaging show runs through to Feb. 10th and also Feb. 13th to 17th with curtain at 7:30 p.m.
Weekend matinees run Feb. 10th and 17th at 1 p.m.
Penned by George Bernard Shaw, the story – directed by Thomas Usher – follows Barbara – a major in the Salvation Army – who works to save lives and souls by helping the poor and confronting social injustice in London.
Meanwhile, Andrew Undershaft, her fabulously wealthy father and arms industrialist, is looking to buy his salvation and acquire an heir. In the balance lies the fight for their moral conscience, noted the synopsis.
Filled with lively comedy and sparkling wit, Major Barbara is described as one of, “Shaw’s slyest satirical triumphs that uses irony and humor to debate the true ‘price’ of morality.”
“She’s trying to alleviate the misery of the poor and the poverty-stricken in that part of London at the time,” explained Usher of the lead character. Barbara has also been estranged from her father for many years, but eventually her mother decides that it’s time to reconnect the family and discuss matters that pertain to their own individual futures as well.
Mom has aristocratic roots, but the father was what was called at the time a ‘foundling’ or an orphan.
“The long and the short of it is that they all meet as a family and discuss what the future might look like. Andrew sees that his daughter is full of the spirit of giving and taking care of the poor. She then challenges him to come down to her shelter one day and see what she does down there – maybe she will convert his soul and give him a sense of purpose.”
Andrew agrees too, providing that Barbara visit his munitions factory to see how the operation is run and how the workers in general fare in their employment.
“There’s the outlay for the play.”
What do these two ultimately learn from each other?
Barbara has misgivings about the source of her father’s immense wealth.
He’d like to donate to her work, but she’s uneasy about where that cash is actually coming from. But she’s also struck by how his employees are well taken care of. “She’s surprised to find that the workers there have tremendous rights, housing, health care, and education. They are being supported very well by this manufacturer of munitions.”
Usher noted that Shaw liked to explore issues and problems in his day, and examine both sides of an issue.
The play is also something of a comedy, too. “It’s very witty – the comedy also lies in how seriously the people take each other and take themselves. There’s a lot of irony, wit and debate that goes on in the play as well.”
Usher said Major Barbara has been a show he’s wanted to bring to the stage for years. “I’ve seen several productions of it in the past, and it’s always been on my list of want-to-do plays,” he explained. “It’s a tremendous challenge for actors – it’s got great characters and the speech and dialogue are also so clever and dense. There was also the dialect to tackle as well.
A few local Salvationists are also taking part in the production, including Major Larry Bridger of the Red Deer Salvation Army church.
Major Barbara originally premiered in 1905.
Tickets are available through Black Knight Ticket Centre – visit www.blackknightinn.ca.