Of sore bellies and tall hats

Todd MacLean tmaclean@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on August 22, 2014

Cast members of Tall Hat Chronicles are excited about the show, which opens July 2 at The Guild in Charlottetown. From left are Josh Weale, Rob MacDonald and Graham Putnam. Missing from the photo are cast members Lennie MacPherson and Alicia Altass.


It’s the summer of 2014, the summer that many have been waiting for, and the sweet, sweet vibes of celebration fill the air as we all take a look back together to when the concept of Canada was first conceived by our founding fathers, here on this Island 150 years ago.

But have you ever wondered what it would be like if things went a little bit differently back then?

In fact, have you ever thought of what it’d be like if the franchise of Cow’s took over the Island and then held dominion over the entire world, and the only way to halt its progression from a highly-likable ice cream brand to an imposing global superpower would be to travel back in time and ensure that the founding fathers of Canada became debilitatingly intoxicated, thus resulting in a different political outcome than what could bring about that ruthless Cow global autocracy?

Perhaps not, but if you’d like to see what that would be like, then you need to march yourself down to The Guild to pick up your ticket to what I could certainly describe as being this summer’s delightful (and at times appalling) dreamland of historical hilarity.

I had the pleasure of indulging in this trip to P.E.I. political/historical satire paradise last Saturday for a viewing of the comedy called 1864: The Tall Hat Chronicles.

This was, of course, on the night when many Islanders headed to Red Shores Race Track for the 55th annual Gold Cup and Saucer Race. And those who were not at this race, and who did make it to The Guild that night, seemed to either be a) those who abstain from laughter for religious purposes; b) comatose; or c) comatose while abstaining from laughter for religious purposes.

Yes, oddly enough, it was pretty much just Eric the sound guy and me who did most of the laughing in the audience that night. And mind you, Eric has a laugh that is powerful enough in volume to equalize the laugher of at least 10 men (sort of like a much higher pitched Dr. Hibbert from The Simpsons, wonderfully glorious). And I have quite the cackle myself, I admit. But, still, our dual-effort laughs couldn’t cover up the fact that the crowd, for whatever mysterious reason on that night, was just not audibly laughing.

It’s mysterious because this 2014 creation by P.E.I. sketch comedy veterans Rob MacDonald, Lennie MacPherson, Graham Putnam and Josh Weale, along with a newcomer to the troupe this year, Alicia Altass, is indeed very funny.

Through live sketches and video (along with a musical theatre parody section in the first half, which is perhaps the funniest section of the show), 1864: The Tall Hat Chronicles explores an array of intriguing aspects of the 1864 Charlottetown Conference and brings them to life in imaginatively ridiculous ways before your eyes.

And though I perceived that the energy seems to wane a bit through the first parts of the second half of the show, generally the comedy in Tall Hat Chronicles hits hard.

In addition, I must add that I think I could watch MacDonald play the part of a stumbling-drunk Father of Confederation for days on end and never stop laughing. Moreover, I propose that the City of Charlottetown hire MacDonald to stand on street corners and give tourists information, pose for photographs and just basically be there all the time, to help represent the alcohol-fueled reality of what was the founding of our country.

I mean, John A. and the team brought five tons of booze on the Queen Victoria for the conference (one fact out of many that we learn through the also historically-educational comedy.)

So, we all have to admit, it did play a part.

By the end of it all, my belly was sorer than it’d be after a tub of Cow’s Gooey Mooey.

It may not be everyone’s cup of tea (or cone of autocratic ice cream), but if it does sound like your kind of thing, 1864: The Tall Hat Chronicles plays every Wednesday and Saturday at 9 p.m. at The Guild, through until Oct. 11.

Next week: A report from the P.E.I. Jazz and Blues Festival.


Todd MacLean is a local freelance writer and musician. If you have a comment or suggestion for a review, you can get in touch with him at tmaclean@theguardian.pe.ca or at 626-1242. But he won’t be offended if you don’t.



Todd's picks

1. Belle Plaine and Blake Berglund – Celebration Zone, Confederation Landing, Charlottetown, today at 7 p.m.

2. 2104 TD P.E.I. Jazz and Blues Festival – various locations, today and tomorrow, including Ron Sexsmith and Dylan Menzie at St. Paul's Anglican today at 7:30 p.m, Joel Plaskett Emergency and Mo Kenney at the P.E.I. Brewing Co. today at 8 p.m., and The Downchild Blues Band and The F-Holes at St. Paul's Anglican tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. Check out www.jazzandblues.ca.

3. Cloggeroo: The Island Folk Festival – Georgetown, today at noon through to late tomorrow night, featuring The Garrett Mason Band, Coyote, Ashley Condon, Haunted Hearts and many more. Check out www.cloggeroo.com.

4. Much Ado About Nothing – Robert L. Cotton Memorial Park, Stratford, today, tomorrow and Sunday at 6 p.m.

5. Art in the Open – Various Charlottetown locations, tomorrow from 4 p.m. to midnight. Check out www.artintheopenpei.com.

6. Library Voices and The Sheepdogs – Celebration Zone, Confederation Landing, Charlottetown, tomorrow at 7 p.m.

7. Royal Wood – St. Mary's Church, Indian River, Sunday at 7:30 p.m.

8. Maud Whitmore Concert – Confederation Centre of the Arts Homburg Theatre, Sunday at 7:30 p.m.