Ghost writers: the fresh faces behind Theatrefront’s spooky CanCon serial, The Mill

Ghost writers: the fresh faces behind Theatrefront’s spooky CanCon serial, The Mill

(Image: Norman Wong) 

Four of the best and busiest 30-somethings in indie theatre have turned a potentially pedestrian idea—the question of Canadian identity—into a cheeky four-part horror story that has grown campier and more addictive with every instalment. Selling plays about Canadiana can be a slog, so rather than fight against the stereotypes, the crew behind The Mill embraced them. Harsh winters? Check. Jovial lumberjack? Check. Hard-headed pioneer, Huron ghost, tourtière? Check, check and check. The concept was cooked up by Theatrefront’s artistic director, Daryl Cloran, and company member Matthew MacFadzean, and MacFadzean wrote the first instalment—Part One: Now We Are Brody. Set in 1854, it centres around a young woman’s efforts to get an abandoned mill running, against the wishes of the town’s suspicious inhabitants. Then came Hannah Moscovitch’s Part Two: The Huron Bride, which takes place 20 years earlier than Brody, at the functional (but totally freaky) mill. Next up was native playwright Tara Beagan and her Part Three: The Woods, which travels back to the 1600s, when Ontario was New France, Europeans were on a rampage, and a mother and child wander the wilderness. And finally, Damien Atkins, whose Part Four: Ash—a post-apocalyptic tale about a group of kids living in the burnt-out mill—opens this month (and runs in repertory with the first three plays). The Mill’s pieces are sometimes closely linked, sometimes loosely, with overlapping characters and over-the-top storylines involving axe attacks and supernatural possessions. At times, the key to success lies in looking at the old clichés in new ways. And sometimes new might just mean a levitating townswoman.

Theatre
The Mill
Jan. 12 to 29, Young Centre