For 30 years, audiences have been following the seven-part saga of Walt Wingfield and his venture into farming in small-town Canada.
Wingfield’s Inferno is set to take the stage at the Fergus Grand Theatre to share with theatre-goers the trials and tribulations of Walt and his experiences while making the transition from Toronto stock broker to farmer.
In the sixth part in a seven-part series (Letter From Wingfield Farm, Wingfield’s Progress, Wingfield’s Folly, Wingfield Unbound, Wingfield On Ice, Wingfield’s Inferno and Wingfield Lost and Found), Rod Beattie will be playing the title character, and every other character he encounters in his adventures.
Douglas Beattie is the director of the upcoming production, and says Wingfield’s Inferno is a one-man play about a topic that is very relatable to rural audiences. Orange Hall, the local community centre in Larkspur, Ont., burns to the ground, and Walt is chosen to head up the committee in charge of deciding what to do.
“As usual, there is lots of fun, but there is some stuff to chew on as well, about the difficulty for communities with limited resources to try and build something which as risk-free as modern buildings are supposed to be, and stuff to chew on about the wisdom of trying to make your life risk-free as well,” he said. “It is a problem which will resonate with a great many people in rural communities. It is the sort of thing that small communities have to face all the time nowadays.”
Rod has played the character of Walt Wingfield since the premiere in 1984 in Rosemont, Ontario, and has been delighting audiences all over North America since. He plays every character: the local newspaper editor, the narrator, neighbours and, of course, Walt.
“Rod plays Walt, but he is also the rest of the cast. They are introduced by Rod playing the editor of the local paper, in a very short prologue and then Rod doffs a few costume pieces and becomes Walt, who is the narrator and the hero of the story,” said Beattie. “It is a combination of narrative storytelling, and dramatic storytelling, because all of the characters that Walt meets are also impersonated. It is quite a magical sleight of hand. It is very simple, but very compelling.”
Beattie wants audiences to know that even though Wingfield’s Inferno is part of a larger series, audiences don’t have to be familiar with the previous five parts to have a feel for what is going on and those who know of Walt’s story, will see a different side to some of the characters they know and love.
“They all stand alone,” he said. “It is another added delight in the series. The play has been around for a while – I am not going to pretend that it is new – and it has the story, it has lots of funny encounters, it has all of the well-loved characters, and a few new characters. A few characters come into their own in this play, that previously have just been on the sidelines. One of them is Harold the Clerk, who now works at the regional government. When we first met him, he worked for the township. Whereas he is usually an obstructionist when we have met him before, in this play, he actually turns a corner and starts to help out.”
The play runs at the Fergus Grand Theatre on June 3 and 4 at 8 p.m. Tickets are available by visiting www.ralphbasset.com, and are $35 for adults, $30 for seniors, and in groups of 10 or more, $30 each.
For more information about the Wingfield series, visit www.wingfieldfarm.ca.