This past Friday was opening night for Gallery 7 Theatre’s run of The Giver, and true to their established reputation, it was a good performance. With a runtime of only around 80 minutes, the adaptation of Lois Lowry’s famous novel still manages to hit all the notes of the book and explore its themes of emotion, individuality, and what we are willing to surrender for easier lives, doing its best to live up its less-than-cheery source material, something that leading man Cameron Mckerchar — a former (but hopefully returning!) student at UFV — says creeped into the play’s creative process. “It [can be] hard to have a laugh with everything else going on — that has stood out to us since the beginning. I think there just is a bit of desensitization to it as well for us in the cast.”
The Giver takes place in a community where, for generations, the rules of “sameness” have been enforced to inhibit emotional depth, bonds of love, and choice. Instead, family units, death, and occupations are engineered by committee according to strict guidelines and regulation. Jonas, a young boy with the gift to “see beyond,” is chosen by his community elders to become the next “receiver of memory,” a highly honored but dangerous position. Perhaps not the most original premise for young-adult dystopian fiction, but the way the story unfurls and gathers pace gives a unique and pointed examination of what it means to live. As Mckerchar says, “We’ve done our best to try and show that ‘Hey, as crazy as it is, these characters have a blissful ignorance to the truth and are extremely content with the way their lives are. It’s all they know.’”
As great as the script and stage direction were, the brilliant sound design contributed immensely when it came to drawing the audience into the story. From low-flying aircraft or beating of character’s hearts, to the beautiful renditions of reclaimed memories, the sound design is used expertly without becoming overbearing.
The foundation of any theatre adaptation, however, is crafted by the actors, and The Giver is no exception. The two leads, Mckerchar as 12-year-old Jonas and Jay Danziger in the titular role of “The Giver,” added a genuine warmth and heart to the stage. The scenes with the two of them are among the most memorable and engaging within the play.
When asked what his favourite moments during the production of The Giver were, Mckerchar cited the real life events that — while originally unrelated to the production — wound up enhancing his performance. Namely, the birth of his niece: “I had no idea how to hold a baby, but then my niece was born [during] the rehearsal process on January 9, from my brother and sister-in-law who I live with. It’s really brought this real-life connection to the play from something I’ve been dealing with in real life. I go home, there’s my cute little niece, Alana, and then I go to the Abbey Arts Centre, and there’s Gabriel, the doll that I have to interact with. Funny how things work out.”
The Giver is another in Gallery 7’s tradition of wonderfully performed stage productions. With the reading break coming up, reward your hard work this semester with an evening at the theatre.
Gallery 7’s production of The Giver continues February 3 to 6.