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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26

Musical Mystery

Kathy Gallant
Published Thursday April 30, 07:10 pm
Matchstick offers up a fairytale folktale based on history

Runs to May 17
Village Guitar and Amp

People always say: follow your heart. But what if doing so leads you thousands of miles away from home, in love with someone who’s proven himself to be quite disreputable?

This theme, carried along by vivid set imagery and vibrant music, is what’s been dubbed a not-very fairytale folk musical called Matchstick. The dramatic work is the final show of Persephone Theatre’s Deep End Series for the 2014-2015 year.

Nathan Howe, the play’s lead writer and principal actor, says the show has a wide variety of layers.

 “It’s like historical conspiracy theory, meets fairy tale, meets folk songs,” he says. “It’s a story based on the life of the wife of one of the world’s most notorious villains.”

Howe had toyed with the idea of writing the production ever since he starred in a different musical in 2010.

“The concept stuck with me,” he says. “I was trying to write a few different stories, and what kept emerging was this one song about a character named Matchstick.”

Lauren Holfeuer has represented the title character of this show since its inception, playing the misguided heroine who traipses after her enchanting suitor.

“Our main girl goes through a big journey,” she says. “In an effort to find happiness and to build a life for herself, she takes a big risk on a man [whom] she loves, and goes to another country to start a life with this person.”

“It’s also about discovering that the person who you thought [you loved] is not ultimately who he’s claiming to be,” adds Lisa Bayliss, marketing and development associate at Persephone, “and the shock of that reality when you start to realize how vulnerable you are.”

While the “fairy tale” label might seem bit atypical for this type of story, Holfeuer said that it fits well, as Matchstick is both history-based and whimsical, dark and mysterious.

“There’s a young girl in trouble who meets a boy [whom] she thinks can save her, and the great promise that comes with that,” she says. “But we go beyond the happily-ever-after wedding bells. It asks a universal question: how did I get here, which is something I think we ponder in life, but sometimes avoid answering.”

The show, which features two actors but multiple characters, garnered much buzz while touring the fringe circuit over the past few years, which is how Persephone’s artistic director Del Surjik heard about Matchstick. According to Bayliss, he immediately saw potential for the show to be incorporated into the Deep End Series.

Howe, Holfeuer and her sister Kristen (who directs) worked as an ensemble to finalize the original production in 2013. The performance won several awards while on the road from British Columbia to Ontario, and sold out the Edmonton stage, which is the biggest fringe festival in the country. Since being added to the Persephone roster, the original 75-minute show has been expanded to take place over two hours, with an intermission.

“It is a homemade show that’s now being injected with experts,” Howe says.

“Persephone is helping the three of us create a much richer world as a result. Lauren and I play all of the characters, as well as all the instruments.”

Holfeuer says that working with Persephone has been an exciting opportunity.

“I did the set and costume design myself, while Nathan did the script and props,” she says. “It’s one thing to go from three people doing everything — creation, publicity, marketing, development, set design and execution — but now we’re able to explore these characters in a much deeper way. It’s a wonderful gift to work with Persephone.”

The atmosphere of the play is another dynamic element. The production will take place at Village Guitar and Amp, and the landscape will be in constant motion.

“In the original production, our set design was projections drawn by some incredible local artists,” says Holfeuer. “Now we’ve taken the idea a lot further, and are now working with a great shadow puppet company from Vancouver called Mind of a Snail designing our scenery. We’re playing with masks and puppets to different scales.”

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