Before the curtains close this season, Theatre Erindale gets set to debut The Roaring Girl. The play—written in 1611 by Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker—is given new life by Director Samantha Wilson, exploring the cultural clash between two groups: the mods and the rockers. Swapping London’s traditional 1600s for its swinging 1960s, Theatre Erindale’s The Roaring Girl will plunge audiences into a free love era rom-com of colourful outfits, British slang, and classic rock music.

The virtual performance, which opens on March 24 and runs through the 27, will be presented by UTM’s fourth-year Theatre and Drama Studies students. Among these students is Liam McKinnon, who’ll take on three separate roles: a gallant named Laxton, a seamster named Openwork, and the notorious cross-dressing thief, Cutpurse.

In a recent interview with The Medium, McKinnon detailed his experiences with virtual preparation, his thoughts about the play’s tone, and his hopes for the future students. Our conversation began with the story’s premise.

The Roaring Girl has so many storylines,” says McKinnon. “It’s a whole world woven together to tell the story of what London was like in the ‘60s.” 

Audiences will discover that, as the play unfolds, its lighthearted comedy and romance give way to themes of deception and uncertainty. “By the end, you realize the story is dedicated to finding out who you can really trust.” 

As with all pandemic productions, the cast ran into trouble with planning and rehearsing. This time last year, none of the cast and crew thought they’d perform a whole play from their bedrooms. Covid-19 unleashed a unique set of challenges.

“Besides the normal tech and Wi-Fi issues, we also needed to adjust our acting methods,” says McKinnon. “Performing without scene partners was definitely a unique challenge. Before we started on each scene, Samantha mapped out the space virtually and explained where everything was located relative to our cameras. I spoke to my bookshelf and my guitar to help remember where each character was standing in group scenes and where I had to look while others were talking.” 

Rehearsal was also taxing because McKinnon, like a few other cast members, was acting for multiple characters. “There were some casting and concept changes over the last few weeks, and that made it even harder to follow the roles, lines, and stage directions.”

While the process online was difficult and time-consuming, the cast is proud of the results. Aside from the exciting costumes and the groovy soundtrack, McKinnon wants to highlight the cast’s resilience and dedication to the project. 

“The amount of work that the cast put in is truly admirable,” says McKinnon. “When I see them performing in their scenes, it doesn’t feel like they’re in separate boxes. I’m very excited for people to witness the sense of togetherness, even when we’re in our separate homes.” 

Looking ahead, McKinnon hopes that theatre students next year will be able to perform in a physical space again. “As much as I enjoyed the challenge of performing virtually, it’d be nice to perform face-to-face again and enjoy the full experience of being in a theatre.” 

In a ninety-minute performance, The Roaring Girl will bring an entertaining plot, dazzling visuals and music, and a suspenseful story of deception and betrayal to the virtual stage. To make the theatre more accessible during the pandemic, each ticket is sold using a “pay what you can” model, and patrons can support the performance for as little as five dollars. Tickets are available here.

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