Breaking Norms with Hilda’s Yard

By Meagan Neville

A large majority of us have been fans of live theatre from a young age. After taking English classes in University and analyzing every aspect of a novel or script, it takes a while to turn off that analytical side. Finally the perfect blend of a show – Hilda’s Yard gives enough of a comedic relief, yet still caters to the secretly-still-analytical side of us all. 

 

I had the opportunity to chat with Janice Kiteley, the actress behind the character Janey Fluck, and got more perspective and background on the theming behind the show. It is already evident that the cast is enthusiastic about their portrayal of this quirky show by Norm Foster, and Janice is not shy in expressing her passion for this role. 

 

Hilda’s Yard is about a middle class family in the 1950’s and discusses contemporary issues like gender roles, relationships with much social commentary. The show features many humorous and sneaky puns that as Janice explains “only Norm Foster could do so well!”

 

Janice’s character, Janey Fluck, is a newlywed but has come home to her family with news that she wants to take up a job and travel instead of being married. This journey for Janice’s character takes quite a turn as she finally discloses that her marriage is unstable. With support from her family and a new friend along the way, it’s quite the development for Janey.

 

With shows like ’13 Reasons Why’ becoming so popular, we begin questioning the norms of society or how taboo subjects become seemingly glorified. Of course with these more controversial topics, it brings up the question of whether these theatre shows shed the same light on these topics or if they provide an alternate, more positive spin. Hilda’s’ Yard does give a nudge to audiences to think about these things, but has a very strong difference compared to a show like 13 Reasons Why. Janice explains that the show sheds more of a light on it with in a more positive, light hearted spin.” After doing more research, she noticed that there is more at stake for women. “Janey wants to do something that is frowned upon during that time period. Divorced women were considered tainted and society looked down on that. That’s something that luckily we don’t have to deal with today…it kind of opens your eyes.”

 

The cast have become quite invested in their character roles, and discover ties and connections to each other that help develop their roles. Janice commented that one thing that helped her get into the role of her character was that she related to Janey. Without giving away the distress her character is going through, she comments that she would have done the same thing and left the relationship as well. “It’s easier to do now then back then…but I would have done it too. Plus she’s a bit naive , I can be too at times. I enjoy playing those kind of characters! In Janey’s mind, it’s about freedom, it’s about wanting to see things and know that there is a better life out there.” 

 

Janice explains that her fellow cast have all connected with their characters and each other and have become very invested in those relationships. It’s also part of the reason that Stephen Thayer (who plays Janey’s brother, Gary Fluck) and Janice have bonded as brother and sister in the show. “We get to play around and work with the lines to get the best out of our scenes. I don’t have siblings so I asked him how he acted with his siblings and we discussed how our characters felt about each other so that we could get the right vibe during our interactions. We worked closely on a few small scenes and Terri Hawkes (Director) liked what we did with it”. 

 

Another interesting topic that comes up is Janey’s relationship with her mother. Janice notes that the script gives hints to Hilda (played by Beth Kipping) is going through her own version of mental health problems. “She talks to her neighbour about her problems as a therapeutic thing for her.” Mental health was an uncommon thing to talk to during the time period set for the show and it’s interesting to see this production set a perspective into multiple “taboo topics” for that time period.

 

Amidst the disheartening aspect of a failing marriage for Janice’s character, she admits “it’s still a comedy and very lighthearted! I get to listen to 50’s music and TV shows to get in that feeling more. I already listen to it but I do it even more now! The TV shows have a different pace. It’s a very back and forth conversation ,very quick, not a lot of pauses. This is very much that same kind of flow. ” 

 

The excitement behind this show is quite evident from everyone involved and has proven to have some interesting storylines taking place. This is set up to be a must-see summer comedy. To see Janice and her fellow cast live in this production, head to the the Highlands Summer Festival at the Northern Lights Pavilion in Haliburton for performances taking place July 31- Aug 4 and again Aug 9-11. Shows start at 8:00pm; tickets $35. Find more info at highlandssummerfestival.on.ca.

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