A dozen years ago, Tamara McCarthy was in Cow Head, N.L., in the Gros Morne National Park, when she saw a play that changed her life.
The Double Axe Murders told the true tale of two trappers who disappeared in Cow Head in 1809 and the efforts to find them.
At the time, the SFU grad was staying at the house of the playwright, Berni Stapleton, during the town’s summer festival to lead a physical theatre workshop and she begged Stapleton to bring the psychological thriller to the west coast.
Stapleton laughed at the suggestion and brushed it off.
“Good luck getting my play off this rock,” McCarthy remembers Stapleton telling her, convinced no production about Maritime folklore from a female playwright would translate to audiences in B.C.
“There was some truth to what she said,” McCarthy told The Tri-City News Monday.
After a pitching the drama for a decade to theatre houses in the Lower Mainland — most of which, McCarthy said, have limited slots for Canadian content — one finally signed on.
Kim Selody, the artistic director of Presentation House Theatre in North Vancouver, invited McCarthy and her crew to stage the show, the first time Stapleton’s work had been performed outside of Newfoundland.
After the run, things started to gain traction for McCarthy.
Last year, The Double Axe Murders was nominated for two coveted Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards: Yoshié Bancroft for Outstanding Performance by an Actress (small theatre) and Alex Kirkpatrick for set design.
Last month, McCarthy — a five-time Jessie award nominee — and her Rusticate Theatre company remounted The Double Axe Murders at Gateway Theatre in Richmond, where it had a nearly sold-out run.
Now, for its six dates at Coquitlam’s Evergreen Cultural Centre next week, three are just about at capacity.
McCarthy said she was thrilled to have the same actors as in 2017 back for Gateway and Evergreen runs.
Bancroft plays Sarah Singleton while Ashley O’Connell, a native of Ireland, takes the role of Payne and Zac Scott portrays Pelly.
As director, McCarthy said she and the cast have been able to dig deeper into the script, finding nuances they hadn’t caught before in the mystery.
“We’re finding more layers. That’s the sign of a good play.”
Still, Rusticate Theatre has no plans to tour following its Coquitlam shows, she said.
The Double Axe Murders runs at Evergreen Cultural Centre (1205 Pinetree Way, Coquitlam) from Dec. 10 to 14 at 8 p.m. with a matinee Dec. 14. The Dec. 10 performance includes a pre-show chat at 7:15 p.m. with Tamara McCarthy while the Dec. 12 show has a talk-back afterwards. Call 604-927-6555 or visit evergreenculturalcentre.ca.