Iconic Theatre’s production A Week with Pooh

Jane Reddington

Sounder Staff

Tuesday, June 7 2016

Winnie the Pooh is just days away from his weekend on Gabriola. Many of us grew up listening to stories about the friendship between forest creatures and a small boy named Christopher Robin in the Hundred Acre Wood. Even now, when I see the illustrations by E.H. Sheperd I am instantly transported back to the time I spent with Pooh as a child. 

The cast of A Week with Pooh at rehearsal. L to R: Jasmine Ginn (Piglet), Marg Sutton (Roo), Tansi Robinson (Tigger), Carolyn Bell (Owl), and Toby Russell (Pooh). Photo courtesy Peter Llewellyn

Director Mark Smith first heard the stories when he was four years old and then years later read them to his two daughters. They used to ask him to do the voices and all the characters of which he could probably do every one. Several times while we’re talking he goes into one of them for a moment. 

Clearly, this Winnie the Pooh production is a labour of love for Smith who has changed the location of the Hundred Acre Wood to Gabriola. Adapted from the stories, Smith wrote the play and it follows the characters over seven days of the week. “The play is intended to get us out of our daily routine. The stories remind us about slowing down, taking time to hear and listen to other people and to always find a way to be courteous. I think the stories were written in a gentler time when people were more important to everyone.”

Smith says the first story, which is about a balloon, a bear, bees and a popgun, introduces Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin to the audience. The next scene adds several more characters and then they start to go on adventures. Smith says the cast, which includes four members under 11 years old and a stage hand who is eight, has imagination and a willingness to be spontaneous. “Tigger comes and completes the complement of the cast for Eeyore’s birthday, which some say is a bit sad, with only two presents. We find out that Tiggers don’t climb trees, and then there’s baby Roo, played by Marg Sutton, she uses a piccolo as her voice.”

Smith says the final story is about the search for a new house for Owl, and how Pooh says that Piglet can come and live with him. It carries a message about being kind, of taking care of each other and sharing what you have, even if it isn’t very much at all.

“We’re glad to do a play that’s accessible to everyone. We want kids to perform on this island and to have a place to do it, and adults who’ve never been on stage have an opportunity to do so in a safe environment. Both the adults and kids have learned from each other while they’re doing it, it’s great to see multigenerational friendships forming,” says Smith, who worked for 26 years as a program manager for IBM before coming to Gabriola in 2005.

Producer Jean Llewellyn who comes from an equestrian journalist background, sits in on our meeting. “The older cast members are becoming kids again. It’s fun to watch them giggling,” says Llewellyn. Smith formed the Iconic Theatre Company with his wife Anne Drozd last year after they were given a donation of land to build a performing arts centre. This is their fourth production. 

Smith first acquired a love of theatre at 24 years of age when he moved to Rochester, Minnesota, and was cast in A Thurber Carnival

Ever since, he’s been involved in theatre and it is his passion and hobby. “We’re trying to give an opportunity for everyone to get involved and contribute,” says Smith. “Community theatre is opening the doors to everyone to be able to do anything.”

Parents of cast members are involved with props, microphones, set painting and stage handing. The production will have a 6 x 8 foot rear projection screen like a home theatre. Llewellyn’s husband Peter has photographed scenes on the island and they will be used as the forest. It really is a community effort with Long & McQuade donating all the technical equipment rentals and the Gabriola Recreation Society loaning two-way radios for the stage managers and technicians to use.

Ticket are for sale at North Road Sports and on the website iconictheatre.com. 

Check the Iconic website for show times.