“A lighthearted look at the Canadian adventures of a literary lady, this two-hander takes us to the conquered colony of Quebec, 1764, in the company of Frances Brooke, & her spirited maid Manon.”
Should you see it?
The Secret Life of Emily/Frances is a beautiful piece of theatre. I think it’s the most theatre piece of theatre I’ve seen at Ottawa Fringe this year. If that makes sense.
Mrs. Frances Brooks is a British playwright in around the 18th Century. Her husband is a pastor who has moved to Canada. The play opens as Frances is set to – reluctantly- embark on the three-month journey across the big pond to newly conquered Quebec. Along for the ride, also reluctantly, is Frances’ maid Manon.
Told in three parts (Britain, the voyage, Quebec), Laurie Fyffe’s script for The Secret Life of Emily/Frances is simply beautiful. The voices it gives Frances and Manon, their dialogue and their banter, feel incredibly real. As does the story of the piece itself, which starts off being about Frances and gradually passing the torch to Manon.
Laurie Fyffe also takes on the role of Frances Brooks and does a great job bringing life to the impassioned and almost obsessively focussed “scribbler.” Manon is played by Michelle LeBlanc who does an exceptional job in the role. One particular scene, where Manon is recounting the story of a battle between the English and the French is absolutely riveting.
What makes this play even more special is its setting in the Bytowne Museum. Being surrounded on all sides by such history helps the play feel very authentic, as does the alley seating and the staging by director Bronwyn Steinberg that allows some fun (and non-invasive) interaction with the audience.
The Secret Life of Emily/Frances is a seriously engaging look at a slice of colonial Canadian life and not only worth the trip to the Bytowne Museum (which happens to be located in one of the most beautiful parts of Ottawa) but that I also hope to see more of somewhere in the future.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to know what you think. What did you think of The Secret Life of Emily/Frances? Did it leave you wanting to learn more about out history? Join the discussion in the comments below.