Even death has humorous side
The Four Tellers weave back-to-the-basics theme into their shows at Kings Playhouse this summer
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 902-629-6000, ext. 6054.
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.