Belle Of Amherst (Brian Goodwin)

In Review: Off the Leash Production’s ‘The Belle of Amherst’

Robin Hebb sparkles as Emily Dickinson in Off The Leash‘s production of The Belle of Amherst directed by Jeremy Webb. Fourth walls be damned—pull up a chair and a cuppa and tuck in to some of your friend Emily’s famous black cake. She talks a lot and gets lost in her own stories, but it’s all part of the charm of the non-linear existence of a writer.

We all know her poetry, but the woman behind it has remained a mystery until now. It turns out that Emily is more than a bit ridiculous. In the best way possible. Coming to terms with the fact that she is not, in fact, the Belle of Amherst, has served her well. Turning instead to perpetuating local rumours that she is an eccentric recluse, she has taken to dressing completely in white —bridal white— through every season. She retreats to the second floor whenever visitors come by, spying under the guise of social visits and real estate inquiries. She takes her post as a ghostly figure in the window quite seriously, and draws enormous joy from her idiosyncratic reputation.
(Brian Goodwin)
(Brian Goodwin)

To say that Hebb is captivating in her performance as Emily is simply an understatement. She is poetry personified. The entire performance is like spending an evening with your very best friend, just marvelling at her existence. Together you will experience a full spectrum of emotions: laughter, curiosity, hope, disappointment, sorrow. The ease with which she transitions from storytelling to poetry recitation to enactments of conversations past is absolutely seamless. This, paired with subtle musical and lighting cues, sets a remarkable scene that goes by in an instant. You will be surprised when it’s already intermission and saddened when the time comes to say goodnight to your new companion.

It is entirely possible that your inner writer will awaken during the show. Every sentence William Luce has written spins with energy, bringing Emily Elizabeth Dickinson to life. Her perspectives on the world, from the tender strokes of buttercup petals to her gentle recollections of her father, are replete with marvellous whimsy, painting pictures with her words that make you wish you’d thought to describe it that way first.

(Brian Goodwin)
(Brian Goodwin)

Experience the kindling for yourself at the Saint John Theatre Company’s BMO Theatre on April 16th at 7:30.

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