Lauchie, Liza and Rory, sibling rivalry at its finest

One would assume that a play called Lauchie, Liza and Rory would have at least three actors performing three characters. It doesn’t. The play only has two, and those two actors– Christian Murray and Natasha McLellan– are responsible for 10 different parts.

The play focuses on the story of twins in a small Cape Breton mining town– Rory and Lauchie– and their competitive and complicated relationship with love interest Liza.

“It’s a story of a family and it spans 20 years,” says director Mary-Colin Chisholm. “It’s funny and occasionally it touches home. I think the audience enjoy the story . . . but they also enjoy the theatrical solutions that we arrived at– just dealing with two actors and 10 characters and twins and the length of time.”

The play is an adaptation of a short story written by revered Cape Breton author Sheldon Currie. Currie was approached by a group interested in translating the 10-page short story into a play. He subsequently collaborated with the group to produce a script.

“The original short story was about 10 pages long, but he wrote another 80 pages,” says Chisholm. “He’s the least complicated writer I know because he just goes, ‘Oh, okay,’ and he writes up another scene. He’s remarkable that way . . . He’s got this really wry style. In the same way the Coen brothers have a unique voice when they make a movie, Sheldon Currie has a unique voice when he writes a story.”

Chisholm is well-versed in the intricacies and details of the play– she belonged to the original group that worked with Currie to bring the story to the stage and has been working with the project ever since.

“It’s very close to my heart– I’ve been living with this story for about 15 years,” says Chisholm. “We did it very quickly and it was a very rough version, but we could tell immediately from the response that it was working. So then we’ve refined it, and over the years it just keeps coming up. People still find it interesting.”

The play is now in its second generation of actors and the story has been adapted to fit different stages across Canada and as far away as New Zealand.

“It started out with Burgundy Code and Mike Peterson,” says Chisholm. “Then, my partner Christian [Murray] took over, and he took over during this time when the play was being considerably lengthened and elaborated. Burgundy couldn’t do it and so Natasha MacLellan stepped in.”

The second-generation cast contributes to the play’s character. Its longevity helps set it apart from most theatre productions and pushes it into the same category as other remarkable, long-running Canadian plays like Billy Bishop Goes to War and Albertine en Cinq Temps.

“It’s a very unusual thing in theatre,” concludes Chisholm. “Usually, you get a play, you do three weeks, you do the run and that’s it. This is something I’ve lived with 15 years. It’s a story that keeps finding another audience. It’s the kind of little play that theatre professionals and the regular audience can agree on. It’s a good yarn with good characters.”



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