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Hilda’s Yard hits home with laughter, insight and nostalgia to boot

Family life - From left, Mairi Babb, Brad Austin, Alan Kliffer, Emma Slipp, Patti Allan and David Nairn perform in Hilda’s Yard at the Drayton Festival Theatre until July 18. The comedy was written by Norm Foster and shows one day in the life of the Fluck family in the 1950s.  submitted photo

Hilda’s Yard hits home with laughter, insight and nostalgia to boot

by Marie Male

DRAYTON - In 1956 a loaf of bread cost 18 cents, a case of Black Label beer was one dollar and 12 cents and a twenty-one inch console TV was a lofty $337.45. Many Hilda’s Yard audience members recalled these intriguing particulars, and marveled at the cozy retro backyard set, but the show is not dependent on nostalgia for its entertainment value. It could have happened anytime.

For the most part, family dynamics and human frailty seem the same any year. It is possibly beneficial to gain insight on the issues and maybe even have a laugh while doing so. The comedy Hilda’s Yard provides plenty of both with serendipitous nostalgia.

Written by Norm Foster, the most produced playwright in Canada, Hilda’s Yard conforms to a common theme in his plays.

“I think for the most part, they’re about ordinary people just trying to get by in life,” Foster said. “I never set out with a monumental purpose in mind. I’m not trying to teach an audience a lesson or pass along some profound message, because I don’t think I’m qualified. What I am trying to do is make them feel a little better about this world, and that’s not easy these days.”

The audience is amused and always engaged as one day in the life of the Fluck family of the ‘50s unfolds. Issues such as domestic violence, post-traumatic stress and mental illness are addressed with love and laughter.

In her Drayton Entertainment debut, Patti Allan plays Hilda Fluck, an apron- and kerchief-wearing, clothes-peg-toting housewife. She anticipates the purchase of their first television set and relaxing in their newly emptied nest. Allan masters the part she plays, combining nuances that portray a humble woman of substance, fair and loving but nobody’s fool. Other elements of her personality are inferred when she gets no replies from Mrs. Lindstrom, the unseen neighbour she talks to as she goes about her backyard chores. With many theatre credits, Patti Allan also teaches first-year acting at Simon Fraser University.

David Nairn is Sam Fluck, husband and father, provider and  adviser. With his strong, emotional performance the audience feels his pain when this cheerful, loving father does not receive the respect he has worked hard for all his life. His miming of his repetitive factory job task is both amusing and heart breaking. Nairn is most familiar with Norm Foster’s plays, having both directed and performed several shows alongside the Canadian playwright.

When their son Gary hops the backyard fence and back into the nest, his parents’ thoughts of relaxing by the TV set dissipate. Gary is played by Alan Kliffer, as a little bit needy and affected by post-traumatic stress, from 11 years back. Kliffer keeps his character sympathetic despite his weaknesses.

Enter his sister, Janey, suitcase in hand and the comfort of home on her mind. The audience soon finds that her spoiled attitude is a façade to cover a devastating  problem in her marriage. Mairi Babb plays Janey with a comedic flair.

The next one to hop the backyard fence is Brad Austin as bookie Beverly with deluxe phraseology and a debt to collect. He is loveable anyway.  

Emma Slipp plays Bobbi Jakes, a trombone player and pizza delivery customer turned girlfriend for Gary. She finds her footing as a strong character as the play evolves.

Set designer Ivan Brozic has created an inviting set that looks familiar in the minds of most audience members. The backdoor, the fence, the patio furniture, the clothes line and even the trees seem to welcome us back.  

The audience can check the time of day on stage like a watch under the expertise of lighting designer Lyle Franklin.

Hilda’s Yard leaves the audience pleased; maybe feeling a little bit better about the world.

Part of Drayton Festival Theatres’ 25th anniversary season, Hilda’s Yard runs until July 18. Tickets can be purchased in person at the Drayton Festival Theatre, online at or by calling the box office at 519-638-5555 or toll free at  1-855-drayton (372-9866).

July 10, 2015


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