Even death has hu­mor­ous side

The Four Tell­ers weave back-to-the-ba­sics theme into their shows at Kings Play­house this sum­mer

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ENTERTAINMENT - Sally Cole

When the Four Tell­ers were de­cid­ing on a theme for their 2017 show, they didn’t have far to look for in­spi­ra­tion.

They thought about all the things that peo­ple are un­able to es­cape from. And they nar­rowed it down to two.

“We’re cov­er­ing the life es­sen­tials this year – death and taxes. We have a se­ries of death sto­ries and a Bothell story about taxes,” says Alan Buchanan, a mem­ber of the per­for­mance troupe that also in­cludes Gary Evans, Dennis King and David Weale.

And af­ter read­ing the obit­u­ary page each morn­ing in The Guardian, I tend to agree with him. As Is­lan­ders we of­ten plan our days around them, jug­gling work and per­sonal com­mit­ments with wakes and funer­als for the dearly de­parted.

And th­ese mas­ter sto­ry­tellers pro­vide us with comic re­lief.

Now in their third year, they con­tinue to at­tract sold-out au­di­ences wher­ever they per­form, and a bond of friend­ship has formed be­tween them.

“At the end of a long ca­reer as a sto­ry­teller it is a great priv­i­lege and joy to me to be work­ing with th­ese three guys. They are bril­liant. You will go a long way to find their equal. In­deed, I’m not sure that you could,” Weale tells me in de­scrib­ing his on­stage co­horts in the show that plays Mon­days at the Kings Play­house In Georgetown un­til Sept. 5. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.

The evening con­sists of offthe-cuff sto­ry­telling that cov­ers the four re­gions of P.E.I. as well as a lo­cal im­pres­sion or two.

For in­stance, Buchanan is bring­ing the late Ris­don Gil­lis to life.

“He was our un­der­taker for more than 60 years. He was an in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ter, equal parts artist and ig­no­ra­mus. And the last of a dy­ing breed,” says Buchanan, with a laugh.

Add some mu­sic by The Beck Sis­ters and it feels like a kitchen party.

Vis­i­tors to the new show will see a few changes.

“We’re us­ing video this year. We did have some props that we de­cided not to use. So we’re stick­ing with the tra­di­tional for­mat,” says Evans, the show’s pro­ducer.

As a re­sult, the show is min­i­mal­is­tic, where the sto­ry­tellers use their imag­i­na­tion in­stead of re­ly­ing on cos­tumes or props.

“That’s the strength of the show, the im­promptu sto­ry­telling around the ta­ble. The other thing that’s con­sis­tent is David sets up and closes the show,” says King.

Be­sides weekly per­for­mances in Georgetown, there are three Trib­ute to Ersk­ine (Smith) shows at Vic­to­ria Play­house, start­ing in Sept. 8.

Smith was the found­ing artis­tic di­rec­tor of the Vic­to­ria Play­house and a pro­lific Is­land sto­ry­teller. He died in 2013. And even though he never heard The Four Tell­ers, they had heard about him. Two troupe mem­bers, Buchanan and Weale, per­formed with him on many oc­ca­sions and con­sid­ered him a friend, and in the show they will be re­call­ing with af­fec­tion and re­peat­ing what they re­mem­ber of Ersk­ine’s sto­ries and sup­ple­ment­ing them with their own.

Sally Cole is an en­ter­tain­ment writer with The Guardian. She wel­comes com­ments about her col­umn as well as sug­ges­tions for fu­ture col­umns from read­ers. She may be reached at scole@the­guardian.pe.ca or by phone at 902-629-6000, ext. 6054.

SALLY COLE/THE GUARDIAN

The Four Tell­ers gather around the kitchen ta­ble at David Weale’s house in Char­lot­te­town to dis­cuss plans for their up­com­ing Mon­day night show at Kings Play­house in Georgetown. From left are Weale, Gary Evans, Alan Buchanan and Dennis King.

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