Bringing New West history back from the dead — literally

Alison Main Tourneur and Jacqollyne Keath share the stage in Body and Soul, running from now until October 29.

What happens when a person travels forward through time only to meet their own ghost? Playwright Elizabeth Elwood explores this possibility in her current production, Body and Soul.

Elwood spoke to The Peak a few days into the show’s run, and she said everything has been going well, aside from having to replace a couple of cast members. “Three and a half weeks ago our stage manager broke his arm, and his cameo role had to be replaced,” said Elwood. He is still managing the show, but wasn’t able to perform.

Only one week before the show, another cast member with a major part fell ill and had to be replaced. “It’s been a real challenge,” she said, “but they got it together for opening and it all went smoothly.” You might start thinking the show is haunted, but it’s not that kind of show — it’s actually a comedy.

The story follows Timothy Grey who leaves his job to write about the history of New Westminster. His friend decides it might be a good idea to bring back a resident ghost in order to ask the ghost about historic details for the book. When the ghost’s previous self ends up travelling through time and they come face to face with each other, things get complicated. “They end up bringing back the real person too, and it gets chaotic; they rewrite history,” said Elwood.

Set in a heritage home in the Queen’s Park neighbourhood of New Westminster, and shown in the Bernie Legge Theatre right in Queen’s Park, the show couldn’t be more local. Elwood explained that she wanted to include as many local references to New Westminster history as she could, and she also based her set design on Irving House to add historical accuracy.

Elwood’s idea of a ghost and the person that ghost used to be travelling through time first appeared in a marionette show she did called The Christmas Spirit. In that show there was a haunted, old fashioned manor house, and the ghost and its time-travelling double seemed to be a hit with audiences. This time, there are actors instead of marionettes, and the only thing that remains is that one plot device. Body and Soul was written over two summers in Pender Harbour, where Elwood does most of her writing.

“People always get a chuckle out of ghost stories,” said Elwood, and she thinks audiences will enjoy the element of romance and humour in this show. “It’s an upbeat, happy show. Not a slapstick farce, but more of a smile and a chuckle; it’s a witty and whimsical story.”

Body and Soul will be presented by the Vagabond Players at the Bernie Legge Theatre from October 6 to 29.