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Supernatural comedy awakens historical spectres on the Sunshine Coast

Elizabeth Elwood’s Body and Soul hits the Gibsons stage
Elizabeth Elwood and Gina Gaudet (foreground) direct a multigenerational ensemble in Body and Soul.

History, hilarity and the hereafter converge in a romantic comedy being staged later this month by the Driftwood Players. 

The community theatre company will present a revival of Body and Soul, by Sunshine Coast author and playwright Elizabeth Elwood. Elwood’s work was originally performed in 2016 by the Vagabond Players of New Westminster. 

“I actually wrote the play one summer up here at Garden Bay,” said Elwood, who directs the Driftwood Players production alongside co-director Gina Gaudet. Elwood recalls that a viewer of the original performance described it as a cross between Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit and Star Trek.  

The play depicts a coterie of colourful residents of a heritage building in the Queen’s Park area of New Westminster. The decision by a top-floor tenant (played by Driftwood stalwart Mac Dodge) to write a book about a local pioneer is encouraged by his friend, a technical guru portrayed by Tim Anderson. Assisted by a psychic seamstress (Melissah Charboneau), the two summon supernatural insight for the task of historical research. 

For Elwood, a professional puppeteer turned writer who last year won the award for Best Short Story from the Crime Writers of Canada, the theme of Body and Soul touches a nerve.  

“The way the world is, obviously no one is learning from history,” she said. “It’s pretty depressing to be at our age and see the way the world is turning for our children and our grandchildren.” Elwood shuns the notion that controversial issues in history should be consigned to obscurity for fear of triggering offence. “I have never been in favour of this business of saying, ‘We don’t talk about this or that,’” she added. 

Elwood recalls bringing her children to play on an old anti-aircraft gun installed in a Burnaby-area park. “I thought it was a great teaching tool,” she said. “Then a bunch of mothers said, oh, this is so inappropriate and got it removed. I think kids need to learn the reality of what happened in the past.” 

Body and Soul references incidents from the Boer War, a colonial-era clash with connections to New Westminster’s regiment of Royal Engineers. Decades before writing the play, Elwood met an elderly veteran of the conflict. “What a treasure trove of memories he had,” she said. “That might have been a spark in my mind [when writing the play].” 

Co-director Gina Gaudet, a Gibsons resident and contributor to the Community Theatre Coalition, shares with Elwood a history of involvement with the Vagabond Players. She most recently directed Vagabond’s production of The Importance of Being Uncle Roscoe and attended the 2016 debut of Body and Soul. 

“Body and Soul is an opportunity to have it all,” Gaudet said. “It has drama, comedy, elements of horror, something for everybody. It’s a real actor’s piece.” 

One of the challenges, Elwood notes, was updating the script to reflect lead actors from a different generation than originally written. Characters like the cantankerous landlord (played by Bill Forst, also the show’s producer) and a romantic interest (Nicky Morgan) are re-imagined as retirees or mature careerists. 

“I wanted to get involved in community theatre,” said Morgan, who is appearing in her first role with the Driftwood Players. “I’m getting to know different people and learn a little about acting.” Grinning, she added, “I hope it’s the beginning of a big Hollywood career.” 

Body and Soul plays in eight performances at the Heritage Playhouse in Gibsons from Oct. 27 to Nov. 12, plus a preview show on Oct. 26. Tickets ($25 for adults, $15 for students) are available at Fong’s Market, MELOmania Music, and Strait Music, or online at