Actress explores human heart in new TIFT play in Barrie
By Laurie Watt
In Talk Is Free Theatre’s season-opening play, Vigil, Jenny Phipps brings humour and some insight into human relationships as an elderly aunt.
In one way, it’s not too far from where Phipps began, at age 10, in the middle of the Second World War.
Along with her friends, she wrote and starred in Lovers in the Wood.
“There was a good witch, a bad witch and a couple of lovers — ‘I love you, I love you’. I love you’. The neighbours came and paid sixpence,” she recalled of the play put on with her friends, Amy and Rita.
The girls’ creative efforts raised two guineas for the Aid to Russia Fund and garnered them a personalized letter from Lady Churchill, the wife of Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
“They’re trying to understand the world,” she said of herself, her friends and other British children of that age.
“I used to dance around my living room, a big floppy 10 or 11 (year-old). It was a very small living room and I’d go up on the sofa.
“You never think you’re gong to fail until grown-ups come along and say, ‘What do you think you’re doing?’”
Phipps went on to study acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, where she met a Canadian actor whom she married and followed to Canada. Their theatre took them to Los Angeles briefly and eventually to Niagara-on-the-Lake, the home of the Shaw Festival Theatre, where she still performs.
The romantic simplicity of the story isn’t much different from the insightful look at human relationships that she will help examine as she plays Grace in The Vigil, although the setting at The Mady Centre confines her character to her bed.
The TIFT production isn’t her first. She met and explored Grace for the first time in Vancouver a few years ago, as she played opposite playwright Morris Panych.
This time, she’s exploring the terrain with Alex Poch-Goldin, who a few years ago played an old woman himself — Miss Haversham in TIFT’s Great Expectations.
Early in rehearsals for the Barrie production, she already feels she’s found a better place for Grace.
“There’s a central beat and the one I have is more flowing. The audience will enjoy this play. It’s funning and a bit weird,” she said.
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