A play with no stage acting last year was so successful, the Chilliwack Players Guild is presenting another one.
Back in January 2019, the local theatre company brought its first ever radio play An Affair of Honour by Austin Stone to the stage. There were no costumes, there was no stage acting, lines weren’t even memorized. It was simply a group of actors sitting at a long table and reading from scripts.
It was a huge hit.
The guild only did the one show, but it sold out. That’s when they knew there was an interest for radio plays.
This weekend, they will be presenting their second radio play A Pearl in the Hand also written by Stone. It was broadcast live on BBC on April 22, 1954.
He wrote many stories including nine radio plays. Many years after his death in 1979, a large box which included manuscripts and radio play scripts was handed down to his son, Ed Stone of Chilliwack, who later brought them to the guild.
A Pearl in the Hand is based on the great Hatton Garden pearl robbery of 1913. Hatton Garden is an area of London that is well known for its jewelry and also well known for the odd robbery, Stone said.
“This was one of the very first robberies and it was a sensational robbery purely and simply because the pearls were very, very expensive. The one necklace consisted of 61 flawless pink pearls,” he said.
It was a Texan millionaire visiting London who wanted to purchase the necklace for his wife. It was insured for 150,000 British pounds (approximately $300,000 CAD) at the time and was being shipped from Paris to diamond merchant Max Mayer in London.
“They sent it by mail, by regular mail,” said Stone. “During the time it left Paris and the time it arrived in London it was gone.”
“When they got the post and when they opened the box, they discovered sugar cubes,” added director Astrid Beugeling.
Beugeling also directed An Affair of Honour, and will be directing the next three radio plays by Stone which will be presented in June of this year, January 2021 and June 2021.
“It’s really neat to know these are true stories,” said Beugeling. “[We’re] bringing it back to life from 1913, yet when you hear the story it’s still kind of relevant. Sometimes these things still happen.”
Following the production of the guild’s first radio play in January 2019, Stone received an email from audience member Doug Perry who had brought his visually impaired friend with him to the show.
Perry described his friend as an “experienced thespian” who worked in Hollywood but had never heard of a radio play before. In his email to Stone, Perry explained how much his friend loved the show.
“He so enjoyed it that as the applause faded, he turned to me and whispered fiercely ‘If they do this again, you must tell me,'” wrote Perry.
As a result, Stone has since reached out to the Canadian Federation of the Blind and the Chilliwack chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind inviting members to attend the show.
“From our perspective as a community theatre organization, this is huge for us to be able to reach out to the community and hear back from the community how much they appreciate and enjoy this,” said Beugeling “It’s so heart-warming. It’s why we do what we do.”
A Pearl in the Hand is at the Rotary Hall Studio Theatre in the Chilliwack Cultural Centre on Saturday, Jan. 11 for two performances, one at 12:30 p.m. and the other at 3 p.m. It is round table seating (four per table) and snacks plus coffee and tea will be served. Tickets are $12 and available at the box office, chilliwackculturalcentre.ca or at 604-391-7469.