Child’s rumor drives well-developed characters and shocking conclusion in Hayfield’s ‘Children’s Hour


Pictured: Paige Horwitz and Yvonne Fox (Jean Martelli)
May 23, 2012

All reviews are written by Cappies student critics and edited by Cappies adult mentors prior to publishing.

Victoria Tovig, a student at Langley High School reviews “The Children’s Hour”, performed by Hayfield Secondary School , as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program .

It’s just child’s play, with a deadly twist, as harmless as the lines in a schoolgirl’s poem: a creeping crawl, a deadly scrawl, a misguiding girl, a rumor whirl. They don’t teach you scheming, demeaning, and lying in school but students learn that and so much more in Hayfield Secondary School’s intense production of The Children’s Hour.

This early modern drama written in 1934 by Lillian Hellman was widely regarded as controversial.  It centers on a malicious young girl in a boarding school who accuses her two female teachers of having romantic relations together. The Children’s Hour showcases the unraveling of lives and the chaos and turmoil that boil over as a result. The drama was also made into a well received movie in the 1960s featuring Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine, and is currently finishing a revival in London’s West End.  Hayfield Secondary School enacted the lies, scandals, and schemes of The Children’s Hour with passion, grace, and dynamics to create a memorable performance.

Paige Horwitz (as accused teacher Karen Wright) employed a clear grasp on her role as she developed a very defined and dramatic character. As her fellow accused teacher, Yvonne Fox (as Martha Dobie) skillfully portrayed remarkably raw emotions while continuing her brusque mannerisms, sharp speech, and commanding chemistry with her fellow actors on stage. A breakthrough performance by Katie Wattendorf (as Mary Tilford, the young schoolgirl who first begins the rumor) stood out for her highly convincing portrayal of a cloyingly sweet but deceitful child. Taryss Mandt (as Mary’s grandmother, Mrs. Amelia Tilford) truly took on the persona of a refined elderly woman with a natural quality complete with frazzled fussing, a gently worried highbred lilt, and clenched hands.

Natural family dynamics between Mary and her grandmother Amelia Tilford smoothly captured a nurtured layer of believability, while the love triangle among teachers Karen, Martha and Karen’s fiancé Dr. Joseph Cardin (Ian Burgess) was notable for grounding the production with intimacy and tension.  The brief but strong reactions of the grocery boy (Daniel Kingsley) captured the standoffish mood of townspeople regarding the scandal, while Allisha Edwards (as Martha’s aunt, Mrs. Lily Mortar) exhibited responsive reactions to characters on stage. Another notable performance was Coi Drayton as schoolgirl Rosalie Wells, whose swooping tones and whiney inflection charmed and came across with humor.

Act III included rain sound effects that were perfectly delivered at a proper volume -- neither overpowering the actors nor undermining them -- and greatly heightened the emotion of a dismal scene by reflecting the trapped circumstances of the female teachers accused of having an affair. Period era wigs for adults helped transform characters into more mature visions, while childish hair styles such as braids distinguished schoolgirls. The multi-level set proved versatile, setting each scene with a change of furniture from the school’s simple beige to elegant ivory in the Tilford Manor.

Despite issues with character consistency as well as the occasional misunderstandings with diction, Hayfield Secondary School’s production reminded how rumors can make or break a future. But after all, it’s “natural” for little girls to make up stories no matter how hurtful they are… isn’t it?

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