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Theatrical thriller blows into town

Freak Winds, a play opening next week at the Guild, promises thrills and laughs in equal measure. The show comes from Australian playwright Marshall Napier. “It’s got a unique Australian sense of humour to it,” said director Sarah Rodgers.

Freak Winds, a play opening next week at the Guild, promises thrills and laughs in equal measure.

The show comes from Australian playwright Marshall Napier.

“It’s got a unique Australian sense of humour to it,” said director Sarah Rodgers.

“It’s a thriller, it’s very suspenseful. It has a kind of Hitchcock suspense to it, the old Hitchcock films. But it’s a really fabulous black comedy. It’s got great wit and humour to it, even though the premise is quite dark.

“This salesman arrives on a stormy, windy night, into this seemingly gentle home, and everything turns upside down very quickly. He feels that he’s under a great threat and that his life may be in danger.”

The Guild’s artistic director, Katherine MacCallum, saw the play a decade ago in Australia, said Rodgers.

“It took that theatre community by storm. She was saying to me that when it opened you couldn’t get tickets for it, a line up around the block,” said Rodgers.

While the horror, the thrill and the suspense came across to Rodgers when she first read the script, the humour came as a surprise, she said.

“Until you hear a play out loud, that’s when you really find out how hysterical it is. So when we came up and had our first read through, I was like, ‘This is so funny.’ It’s actually a fantastic comedy. That was the surprise for me.”

Rodgers is a professional theatre director based in Vancouver. This is her fourth season coming up to direct for the Guild.

She met with the News at Baked Cafe this week, her three-year-old daughter, Poppy, in tow.

Poppy, who has been sitting through rehearsals, likes the show, said Rodgers.

“Although she doesn’t like the bad language. There is a language warning to this show.

“She turned to me yesterday and said, ‘Mommy, they’re using bad language. I don’t like it.’ I explained that they are just play acting, and the actors actually use very nice language when they’re not on stage.”

At this point in the interview, the diminutive Poppy pipes up and yells, loud enough that most in the crowded, noisy cafe can hear.

“Don’t! Use good words! Not on stage!”

“She’s just preparing for her future stage career,” an acquaintance of Rogers’s says from a nearby table.

Rodgers loves coming up to Whitehorse to direct at the Guild, she said.

“Every show that I’ve done here has just been a joy. Also, the choice of plays are always really interesting. So as an artist I always get to expand.

“I love working on smaller pieces. It’s a gift for me to be able to work on a small piece, with just three people.

“I’ve just come from directing a cast of 40 people in Vancouver in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. That was my last show, for Theatre Under the Stars. So, a huge piece, moving massive numbers of people around the stage.

“I love being able to just work on character and the scene work within the piece, moment to moment. It’s a real gift, to be able to spend that time.”

Rodgers’s three actors are Winluck Wong, James McCullough and Charlotte Courage.

They are all doing an exceptional job and “learning lines like mad,” she said.

“We’re on a professional theatre schedule, so it’s only three weeks of rehearsal, which is unusual for the Guild. They like to do four or five weeks. But I was confident with this piece that we could do it professionally.”

The set, too, is coming together beautifully, said Rodgers.

“We are practically building a house. I said to them that it looks so stunning that it’s going to be a crime to tear it down after. I think that somebody is going to have to move in, into the Guild, into the house after because it’s so exquisite.

“They’re building it with two-by-fours, with the proper wood, the proper kitchenette. I said, ‘We could pass the proper inspection, if the house inspector came in.’”

Donald Watt is the set designer. In Vancouver, Rodgers works exclusively with professional set designers and costume designers, she said. But Watt is a professional snow sculptor, and he offers a different perspective to the work.

“Because of that, he’s a true artist, and brings something quite unique to the design table. I love the excitement of that.”

It’s a perfect show for Halloween, said Rodgers.

“Without giving too much away, there were certain scary props that we needed, that you literally would never be able to buy in town except, they’ve hit stores because it’s Halloween. So we’re able to get some very specific, rather gory, props that we needed.”

Freak Winds runs September 26 through October 12, with a preview on September 25. Tickets are available at Whitehorse Motors.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at