LITTLE CURRENT—“Pirates! The mere mention of the word conjures up images of swashbuckling buccaneers, stolen treasure, Spanish galleons, the Caribbean, the black spot.”
Those were the first words spoken by narrator Ivan Edwards as he introduced the first scene of the evening performance on Sunday, October 28 at Little Current United Church. Community members had come to experience the sold-out murder mystery dinner theatre presentation of ‘The Blight of the Blackspot,’ starring and written by the Little Current United Church Players.
“We all had fun with it. It’s nice we can offer something like this for the community,” said Pastor Paul Allard.
The play began in a tavern, where a boy (Brenda Hallett) found a piece of a map and delivered it to Captain Marvin Monkhouse (Scott Mosher) and his first mate (Helen Eade). The map was supposed to indicate the location of the long-lost treasure of an old Captain Flint.
However, they were warned, there were rumours that Captain Flint’s trip was marked by the black spot, a mark indicating guilt and that the bearer of the spot is not long for the world. Undeterred, a financier named Sir Reginald Bromley (Michael Jerry) arranged for a ship and the captain and his first mate agreed to get a crew together in one week.
The two discussed their possible choices: a cook named Coco Rogers (Karen Allard) who knew about the black arts and potions, Hughie Edwards (Diana Parrill) who was good at the riggings but could be a troublemaker, and young Ben (Laurie Cook) who always accompanied Coco on his trips.
The next scene of the play was aboard the ship where the audience met Sir Reginald’s wife, Lady Penelope Bromley (Judith Mosher), and daughter Elizabeth Bromley (Pastor Allard). It opened with the raising of a sail high above the stage, a nice authentic touch to set the scene. Elizabeth protested being locked away in her cabin all day, away from the eyes of the handsome Ben, and Lady Penelope expressed her fondness for the captain. The audience could not help but crack up at Pastor Allard’s performance as Elizabeth, a position for which he had to shave off his characteristic Fu Manchu mustache.
Meanwhile, the remaining crew discussed the missing map piece and Coco and Ben spent some time together. They introduced Coco’s parrot Cap’n Flint, which seemed to have flown away at the time, and introduced a plot line that Coco may have known Lady Penelope previously.
Later on the deck, Ben and Elizabeth were spending some time together when Lady Penelope arrived and noticed the black mark on Ben’s neck. She told him that she had seen that on a young lad a long time ago.
The next scene began with the revelation by Elizabeth that her mother had died. Upon looking in her pockets, Elizabeth discovered a pearl in her pocket and the disappearance of her locket. She said her lips were blue and her neck was bruised. The captain said he once gave a fortune teller a locket and that locket was rumoured to contain the remaining piece of the map.
Elizabeth and Coco discussed that the pearl may have been part of Captain Flint’s buried treasure, and Sir Reginald and the captain exchanged theories that Lady Penelope may have been the fortune teller from the captain’s past.
At the start of the fourth and final scene, the narrator revealed that there was no treasure where the map had indicated. All the characters began to wonder aloud what had happened. Next came an epilogue where the narrator explained some of the possible motives of each character. During the performance, guests were invited to write their theories on a form they all had at their tables. They were split up and each actor read the theories proposed about their character. In the end, it was revealed that Coco poisoned Lady Penelope and Hughie had throttled her with her locket.
In between each scene, members of the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps (RCSCC) Manitoulin served the four courses of the meal and offered drinks of coffee, tea and punch. To start was “sea biscuits and squash buckler soup,” followed by “seaweed salad.” For the third, main course, “Sir Reginald’s Regal Repast” consisted of rice, tenderloin in sauce, roasted squash, carrots and Brussels sprouts. The dessert to top it all off was “Flint’s forbidden fruit,” an apple crisp with a whipped cream topping.
Ed Kellar served as the understudy during the rehearsals, filling in as needed. During the performance he operated the sound and light boards.
Mr. Mosher took the lead on this project. He has been a part of murder mysteries in the past and wanted to bring the style of entertainment to Little Current.
“We started bouncing ideas around in March,” he said. “We tried to figure out what the story would be and, being on Manitoulin, we kept thinking of doing something nautical.
Part of the writing process involved reading old pirate novels, and Mr. Mosher said a major challenge was keeping the language as authentic to the time period as possible. He, Helen Eade and Diana Parrill spent many hours on getting the script right.
“We wanted to cast suspicion on every character,” said Mr. Mosher. He added that some people thought it may have been easier to buy a script for this first attempt at the format, but he took on the challenge. He said he took inspiration for some elements from television shows he was watching during the writing process.
The group began practicing once per week in September and moved to twice per week in October.
“Our group today was all members of the congregation, but we would like to turn it into more of a community event,” he said, and added that anyone who had an interest in participating was welcome to join.
“It allows you to do things you don’t get to do in your daily life,” said Mr. Mosher, a chemical engineer. “We wanted to show people that there’s more to church than coming to a service on Sunday morning.”
At the end of the performance, Mr. Mosher thanked the RCSCC Manitoulin members for helping out with serving the food, as well as the kitchen staff who prepared the food for the guests.
Pastor Allard said the production was a positive experience.
“We all had fun with it. It’s nice that we can offer something like this for the community,” he said.
“I hope we will try something like this again. We hope to get more actors who saw us having a good time, and want to join in,” he said.
For those wanting to experience one of the Little Current United Church’s live productions, the next one called ‘Scrooge and Cratchit’ is coming up in the first week of December. The Church collects donations for Manitoulin Family Resources and the community food bank as part of that event, intended as a kick-off to the Christmas season.