The Great Kooshog Lake Hollis McCauley Fishing Derby - touching & funny, a show you won't soon forget


The Great Kooshog Lake Hollis McCauley Fishing Derby
Written By Norm Foster
World Premiere
Presented by a missinglink theatre company
Directed by Rick Kish
Set Designer: Eric Brunnell
London Convention Center
8 p.m. performances April 23, 24, 25 (previews), 26, 27, 30, May 1-3
2 p.m. performances April 24 (preview), 27, May 1, 2, 4
Thursday April 25th 11 a.m. performance, April 26 Camp Wendake Benefit performance, May 3 Anago Benefit performance
A Canadian Actors Equity Associate production under the Artists Collective Policy.
Cast:  Julia Webb (Sienna Grey), Dwayne Adams (James Bell), Martha Zimmerman (Rhonda Borkowski), John Turner (Kirk Douglas), Rachel Jones (Melanie Morningside)


Spoiler Alert

The world premiere of award-winning playwright Norm Foster's touching and funny play about a small town, a big fish, and five big hearts is now playing at The London Convention Center. I attended the first of four previews.


The Great Kooshog Lake Hollis McCauley Fishing Derby is set in Lake Kooshog (surprise!) where puffed-up, overachieving investment advisor James Bell has had the grave misfortune to have his car break down while on his way to give a 'very important' speech. The multi-talented locals (the whole town plays the harp, for one thing) really would like to help him on his long-winded way, but fuel pumps, like certain fabled fish, can't be easily had. They have to be ordered in from somewhere else. James is invited to take part in the annual fishing derby while he waits. In the process, James finds out that he has a lot more to learn from these people than just how to fish.



Before the play even begins, the sound effects and set design transport us out of the city and into the quiet peacefulness of any cottage-country small town in Ontario. The sound of water lapping at the shore, the raw beauty of rocky landscapes and evergreens, set against the aging facade of a country store complete with one realistically missing Coke sign and festooned with cheap beach toys sent me back to memories of happy summers past.  


Julia Webb gives a convincing performance as Sienna Grey, the good hearted but domineering mom pretending not to be worried and sad because her grown son has left home without a word to her (and hasn't called since). Sienna doesn't change her t-shirt even for the derby dance, although she adds a sweater for the evening chill. She seems to have no interest in such things, because her heart is broken.


The lovely Melanie Morningside (Rachel Jones) on the other hand, does don a pretty party dress for the dance, which seems to belie her protestations of interest in James. Jones flits around the stage, hardly standing still (until she wants to be caught), like a lovely butterfly just trying out newly grown wings.


Dwayne Adams (James Bell) delivers a likable character in James. With a distinct lack of stiff-necked body language or the sarcastic facial expressions one might expect from a man with such an over-developed sense of self importance, Adams portrays James as a good sport with surprising humility and a willingness to learn.


John Turner plays Kirk Douglas (no, not that Kirk Douglas) with comedic precision so good it must be innate. For a character with a name that would so easily lend itself to satire, his Kirk Douglas is natural, gentle, funny and kind.


Martha Zimmerman (Photo below, right with Dwayne Adams, left) is hilarious as Rhonda Borkowski. Once again, playing a character that could easily become a stereotype, she gives Rhonda self awareness and strengths that flesh out a real woman.


Of course, the fabulous writing of Norm Foster provides the basis for all of these wonderful performances.

Never a misstep in staging, lighting or sound, this is a top notch production with excellent direction.

I am always amazed at the wealth of talent we have right here in London, and saddened that so many of our talented local artists have to travel to other locales to actually make a living. We have world class writers, actors, musicians and artists right here in our city. We should be shouting this from the rooftops to other centers!


Before you see The Great Kooshog Lake Hollis McCauley Fishing Derby (try to say that five times, fast!) you may have trouble even remembering the whole title long enough to say it once -  but I guarantee that once you have seen it, you will never forget Lake Kooshog, or Hollis McCauley or the Great Fishing Derby again.

Jamie-Lee Wilson is a closet novelist and huge fan of live theatre.

Photos: Dana Nosella Studio