Tony Collins is taking on the highest office in Canada for his first theatrical production since high school.
The first-time Many Hats Theatre performer is set to embody the fictional prime minister Steven Cauldwell in their upcoming production of State of Confusion, written by Vernon playwright Michael Poirier.
“There is no real prime minister per say, but you can kind of draw your own similarities, the name draws some similarities to be sure, but there is no direct correlation … wink, wink,” Collins said. “I channel a very uptight, very stoic prime minister.”
He doesn’t have a personal favourite non-fictional prime minister.
“I take a little bit from each prime minister. Each has their own good points and bad points, but they all have something, so I can always draw something from all of them. Diefenbaker all the way down to Pierre Trudeau. Not so much the Justin, a little too young,” Collins said. “They all have something that interests me.”
Director Eleanor Walker said Poirier is expected to be in attendance opening night, he also met the cast at the initial table read where Walker was able to chat with him about the performance, the play and the characters.
“I had a nice talk with him about the play, how he came to write it,” Walker said.
State of Confusion follows 17-year-old Elizabeth Cauldwell (played by Paige Prosser), the slightly rebellious daughter of the newly elected Prime Minister Cauldwell, who causes sparks to fly and family tension when she meets a boy named Matthew Cave (Jeff Swetlikoe) at a hockey game.
Elizabeth wants to grow up, but her dad won’t let her. He gives her a nanny, a tutor and a chauffeur, all he thinks she needs, however, Elizabeth has a hard time meeting friends in Ottawa and has a bodyguard, Carl (Rob McCaffery), who follows her around everywhere.
When she meets Matthew at a hockey arena, he doesn’t know who she is at first. That soon changes, and a confrontation takes place between dad and daughter when she wants to start seeing Matthew.
Prosser’s character is a complete turnaround from her most recent stage performance as Ursala in Princess Margaret’s production of The Little Mermaid.
“She was a big, flamboyant, giant character with so much energy and room to roam. This is such a contrast to that character because she’s small and very conservative and quaint, but yet she still packs that punch too,” Prosser said. “It’s just a little more controlled.”
This is her second performance with Many Hats since quickly joining the cast of Getting Sara Married before opening night.
“They had a character drop out so I was called six days before the show. Having that time is really helpful,” Prosser said. “I played a 30-year-old last production, so this a more comfortable role.”
She is also working with former Little Mermaid cast mate in Swetlikoe.
Meeting Poirier and performing in front of him adds a bit of pressure for the young actress.
“It’s a big weight to carry, you have to do it perfect,” she said with a laugh. “I’ve never met the writer of a play I’ve been in before, so it’s definitely a cool experience.”
State of Confusion manages to intertwine politics, love, parenting and more.
“I think it would be hard for the children of the prime minister to have a social life,” Poirier said.
Like in similar-based stories such as the film The American President, where Michael Douglas played the “leader of the free world,” Poirier gives insight into the prime minister’s private life – the good, the bad, and the funny.
It’s also not a coincidence that it was written during an election year for the federal government, said Poirier on the timeliness of his play.
“If you can’t laugh at your prime minister, then who can you laugh at … I thought of our current prime minister and how he’d react. I see this guy as a regular guy, but when he’s in office he puts a mask on and he’s all business,” said Poirier. “I tear the mask off a little and he has to step out of his PM facade and be a dad.”
State of Confusion runs from July 7 to 30 at the Cannery Stage, Thursday through Saturday. Doors at 7:30 p.m. and performances at 8 p.m. with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.
“I think it’s a great play for summer because it’s just fun. It’s really Canadian humour, Canadian audiences will really get it,” Walker said.
With files from Kristin Froneman, Vernon Morning Star