Bay of Quinte Tourism

Festival Players Brings Al Purdy to Life: A Splinter in the Heart

Festival Players wraps up the summer and its 10th season with Al Purdy’s love letter to the Bay of Quinte region, set in Trenton, 1918.

Festival Players’ final production of the season is the world premiere of Dave Carley’s A Splinter in the Heart, adapted from the novel by Al Purdy. It’s a funny and poignant piece, at once intensely local, (set in Trenton, 1918) and with epic and universal themes that will resonate with audiences from near and far.

Iconic Canadian poet Al Purdy, spent decades living and writing in the famous A-Frame cottage he built with his wife Eurithe on the shores of Roblin Lake in Prince Edward County. His love of the people and the geography of the area shines through in his poetry, and the same can be said of the novel. It’s like a love-letter to the region.

At its core, A Splinter in the Heart, is a story about a young boy, coming-of-age during the First World War. Patrick, like teenagers since time in memoriam, is struggling to find his place in the world, frustrated by the adults in his life, and marking time in school, but when a new girl arrives in class things get turned a wee bit upside down. Patrick’s journey is set against a real-life disaster, and little-known piece of Canadian war-time history. In Trenton on Thanksgiving Day 1918 the British Chemical plant, a 200 acre installation on the Trent River employing over 5000 people, blew up. It was a near Halifax-sized explosion that changed the town, and this boy’s life, forever.

“It’s a fascinating piece. There are so many layers. And it’s just so much fun,” says Artistic Director Sarah Phillips. “We’ve got the layer of the novel, of Purdy’s initial story, which has been adapted for the stage by Dave Carley. And then the play itself is set in a recording studio where actors are putting on a radio drama version of the novel. The edges blur and we exist in this suspended sort of realm. Andrew Penner, our composer, has created a beautiful score, executed by the musician and the actors in the cast. The actors are voicing all of these different characters in the story and they’re doing live sound effects in the scenes, playing music in and around moments. It’s captivating. This recording studio comes alive and then we kind of transcend its walls. There’s almost this mystical or magical quality to it.”

A Splinter in the Heart, Festival Players of Prince Edward County
John Jarvis, Darcy Gerhart, Ben Chiasson, Caitlin Driscoll and Stuart Clow in A Splinter in the Heart. Photo by Johnny C.Y. Lam.

Audiences can enjoy a pre-show meal from the PICNIC food truck and/or a glass of wine under the Grand Tent at Rosehall Run. The outdoor show has long been a favourite of Festival Players audiences and this will be no exception. It’s a funny, sweeping, moving play, sure to be a hit!

The cast features John Jarvis (Soulpepper, Tarragon Theatre, CanStage), Stuart Clow (Factory Theatre, CanStage, Theatre Passe Muraille),  Caitlin Driscoll (Theatre Passe Muraille, 4th Line Theatre, Lighthouse Festival Theatre), Darcy Gerhart (Theatre Centre, Shaw Festival, Hart House Theatre), Ben Chiasson (Victoria Playhouse, Charlottetown Festival, Toronto Fringe) and musician Tom Keenan (Manitoba Theatre Centre, Prairie Theatre Exchange, Theatre Calgary). The show is directed by Festival Players Artistic Director Sarah Phillips with music director Andrew Penner (Soulpepper, Stratford, CanStage). Costume Design by Anne Redish (4th Line Theatre, 1000 Islands Playhouse, Theatre Kingston) and Set Design by John Thompson (Manitoba Theatre Centre, CanStage, Soulpepper). 

A Splinter in the Heart

Aug 3 – 21, Rosehall Run Vineyards, Wellington

Wed – Sat @ 6:30PM, Fri & Sun @ 1:30PM

Tickets: 613.476.1991 / 1.866.584.1991 or Online at

c/o Sarah Phillips, Festival Players of Prince Edward County

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