Kelsey's Chrysalids tries to break social barriers of discrimination, religion

Emily Paton, Patrick Dixon and Ethan Hatch are part of the cast in Frances Kelsey Secondary School
Emily Paton, Patrick Dixon and Ethan Hatch are part of the cast in Frances Kelsey Secondary School's production of the Chrysalids.
— image credit: Delphine Menu

Messages about social acceptance, religion, manipulation and courage are bravely staged this week during Frances Kelsey high's version of The Chrysalids.

Teaching director Anna Roberts uses David Harrower's adaptation of John Wyndham's novel that's been a secondary-school mainstay since 1955.

The one-act drama's gripping plot and setting is just as chilling now, as then.

"I just liked the conflict in this story," she said of the "post-apocalyptic, futuristic type of play" hinged on one group of townsfolk rejecting another.

"There's a hint something happened to human society in the past, and what we have left has come out of that collapse."

The rub surfaces between a group of people who consider themselves normal "and the other that are mutants and psychics, and have something different about them," Roberts said.

She hoped her 26 actors get "a positive experience, gain a sense of community and realize everybody's different, somehow."

Axel (Ashton Arden) know he's offbeat, said Ashton Arden, 17, depicting the lame scientist who's protagonist David's uncle.

"Axel's also the  brother of David's father, Joseph, leader of the town and main preacher behind their Christian/Catholic-inspired religion focused on maintaining purity in the post-apocalyptic setting," the Grade 12 actor said of the tale of extremes.

"Worldly Axel's the opposite of Joseph; an atheist who doesn't believe in casting out people who are different.

"Axel's the good angel on David's one shoulder; Joseph's the dude with the pitchfork on the other."

Arden was ardent about playing reason's voice among folks who've "morphed into weird, over-zealous people who believe on keeping form."

Six-toed Sophie (Priyanca Tatachari) relates.

She meets David in the forest where she lives to dodge persecution by Waknuk townspeople about her physical difference, the 15-year-old actress said.

"David helps her and she get to trust him. Sophie's a secret. If found, she'd probably be beaten up."

The moral to Tatachari is "people are pretty much the same and you can learn a lot from talking to someone, no matter what they look like, or how they think. The big message is accepting people for who they are."

That's not the view of preaching-farmer Joseph (Austin Frykas, 18).

"He believes in beating his children," Frykas said of his "flat character."

"He only cares for his daughter, Petra, as the perfect child."

He echoed Tatachari's idea about Chrysalids showing the nastiness of discrimination.

"It's a learning experience acting wise, and morally even."

Patrick Dixon, depicting David, agreed.

"Wyndham's trying to say there really is shallowness in the average, modern human — if we meet someone with a challenge, they aren't going to be fully as human as us."

David comes to see this by rebelling against Joseph, asking questions about his religious bent, and realizing if you step out of line it can be ext dangerous for you," said Dixon, 15.

"Wyndham's trying to break that barrier, get us to cooperate with each other, and be less judgmental."


Your ticket

What: Frances Kelsey's The Chrysalids

When: Dec. 6 to 8, 7 p.m.

Where: Kelsey Theatre, Mill Bay

Tickets: $5 at the door.

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