The Massey Murder; still a spellbinder 1

Review by Danny GaisinreviewerDGcolor

The shooting of Charles ‘Bert’ Massey in February of 1915 was an epitomic ‘cause celebre’, He was a MASSEY, albeit not well-liked by the pater familias; and Carrie Davies was his virginal eighteen-year old housekeeper… the same age as young Bert was when he impregnated his wife and had the son whose pistol was the instrument of Bert’s death.
The family was away and Bert decided it was time to “do” Carrie. She resisted and the next day; in fear for her chastity – ‘blew him away’. Photo by James Smagata

the "Massey Murder" cast's representation of an old Miele letterpress printing operation

the “Massey Murder” cast’s representation of an old Miele letterpress printing operation

An overnight scandal with political overtones; strong newspaper attempts to cover or cover-up the story; and an avidly followed trial pitted two legal adversaries in the case… all the stuff of great theatre. Although she confessed to the deed, she was acquitted in about a twenty-minute jury deliberation; married a farmer and struggled financially while still managing to engage in good works. She died in 1961. Based on Charlotte Gray’s popular novel about the case; the 3rd year students of UTM’s theatre Arts programme have created their own depiction of the story and under the direction of Meredith Scott, have a doozy of innovative theatre.
Scott credits her associate director Sarah Jane Burton three times in the programme. Mentioning the name – including title so often is atypical but methinks the rationale is Scott’s attempt to proactively spread the blame. Theatre Erindale’s ‘THE MASSEY MURDERS’ is a convolution of genres. There is choreography; there are oodles of pantomime; there are monologues; we’re given heavy-handed & blatant depictions of personality and even discordant dialogues that are both confusing and cacophonous. The symbolism is highly exaggerated. This surely must be a malevolent clone of the woman who directed “1917 –Halifax Explosion”.
On the affirmative side, the sixteen student performers are universally adept. Their recitations; posturing; projection and especially the freeze-framing and slow-motion effects give an added sense of old Vitaphone™ productions of the same era. Including Leroy Anderson’s ‘Typewriter Song’’ in anything is a sure-fire technique to win over this particular scribe. Patrick Young’s set is simplistic & unsophisticated so it does not distract from stage activity or focus. James Smagata’s lighting, especially spotting, is his creative way of targeting emphasis and visual orientation. The costuming requires the audience to use imagination and concentration on the symbolic aspect of what is being represented.
There are a few stand-out representations and deserve acknowledgement, but in this instance, should in no way demean those unspecified…all are superlative. The diminutive Dominique Corsino is definitely a full-sized talent. Stuart Hefford & Nathaniel Kinghan are the adversarial legal proponents and both give a highly credible exemplification. Using facial expression and dramatic pauses; Colette Fitzgerald holds the audience’s fascination throughout her monologues. The same is true of Kira Meyers-Guiden especially with her bit about being enthralled with hanging! I am too… the recidivist rate after the noose is almost zero. Nathaniel Voll’s role-interpretation of ‘Bert’ is convincing with just enough malevolence to actually be such a cad.

The MASSEY MURDER will be at Theatre Erindale until the 23rd. Call 905-569-4369.

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One comment

  1. Hi Danny! Thanks for the kind words!
    I fear the confusing beginning of our show misled you, and there are one or two other points I should correct as well.
    1. Charles Albert Massey (played at various moments by Stuart Hefford and Isaac Giles) was called Bert to distinguish him from his father Charles Massey and his son Charles Massey. His uncle Hart Massey (played by Nathaniel Voll) took over the children after his murder and their mother had to fight to get them back. There is no Bart Massey.
    2. Theatre Erindale is the production company of the JOINT Sheridan-UTM Theatre & Drama Studies Program. All technical personnel are joint employees. However, all production and studio course credits are Sheridan courses and all artistic personnel are Sheridan employees. The facilities do belong to UTM.
    3. Charlotte Gray’s The Massey Murder is a work of non-fiction rather than a novel.
    Thanks for all your support over the years and take care! — Patrick

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