Like many fathers, Megan Coles’ dad often responds to her First-World problems by referencing the hardships he had as a child, to illuminate just how good she has it.
“When my father was growing up,” Coles, a native of Savage Cove, said, “they all lived in a very small home, a traditional biscuit box house with at least nine or 10 kids there at the same time.
“I was having a conversation with my father about some inconvenience and he was talking about how they didn’t have any electricity or running water for most of his childhood. He started speaking about the slop bucket, and I said, ‘Dad, did anyone ever knock it over in the night?’ He said, ‘Of course! It was dark.’ I said, ‘Well, was it a mess in the morning?’ and he said, ‘No, never.’ He had never even thought to consider who might have cleaned that up before he woke up in the morning because it wasn’t his job.”
The conversation led Coles to consider the idea that the hard work of mothers and sisters to keep everything in a house in order under difficult situations often went unnoticed and taken for granted. Out of that came “Our Eliza,” a dark comedy she said she wrote for her aunts and the women of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Starring Renee Hackett, Joel Thomas Hynes and Greg Malone, “Our Eliza” runs at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre’s Barbara Barrett Theatre from Friday until Sunday. The play tells the story of a father-daughter relationship and the sense of obligation often felt when it comes to the people we love. Parental relationships are among the most complicated, Coles said.
“At any given time, they’re the person you love most, but also the person you want to strangle,” she said, laughing. “Eliza is exploring this relationship because she finds herself, again, late in life, living with her father after everyone else has passed on or moved away.”
Directed by Lois Brown, “Our Eliza” is being produced by Poverty Cove Theatre Company, which has a mandate to bring theatre to found spaces and challenge the public’s perception of what theatre is. Coles and her friend, Shannon Hawes, formed the theatre company three years ago, having met at National Theatre School.
“Both of us had the same ideas about theatre and what we’d like to see happen within the province and how we’d like to go about making ourselves employed through our craft,” Hawes said. “At the time we formed Poverty Cove, the LSPU Hall was under renovations, the Reid Theatre was closed and we were met with a real shortage of venue space. That influenced our mandate.”
Poverty Cove’s first production was another dark comedy called “The Battery,” which was staged at The Republic, a Duckworth Street bar, in 2011. “Our Eliza” is the second play the company has done.
Tickets for “Our Eliza” are $30 and showtime is 8 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with a pay-what-you-can matinee Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets can be bought online at www.artandculturecentre.com.