The University Player’s production of Blood Relations is a perfect play for this time of year. It’s spooky, thrilling and a perfect Hallowe’en treat! I saw the show with a friend of mine on October 30th, and we both had nightmares that night about people with axes! While it’s not gory at all, it’s like an Alfred Hitchcock movie; it’s not scary at the time, just later, when the lights are off and you’re all alone.

The first thing I noticed when I entered the theatre was the set. I loved all of the articles about the real Lizzie Borden that created the centerpiece of the set. It was amazing, and really made it hit home that this story was based on real events. And it helped to show the difference between the parlour and the dining room. But I loved the staircase and the couch, everything was so beautiful, and the fact that everything was black made the paper stand out all the more. The same can be said for the costumes. First of all, they were stunning. However what was interesting was the characters who wore white. It was only the real Lizzie Borden and her sister Emma who wore any hint of white, along with their Uncle, other than that everyone else was in black. I found it fascinating! Agatha Knelsen and David Court are a dream team, and the University is definitely lucky to have them!

The story itself was fascinating, with a fabulous frame narrative that makes the ending totally mind blowing (I won’t spoil, I promise). However the story would not have been nearly as entertaining if it hadn’t been acted so well. Vanessa Lancione and Breanna Maloney were particularly impressive. These two women shared the role of Lizzie Borden, and yet neither of them was off the stage for very long if at all. The amount of text and characters that they had to know for this play was amazing; their physicality was awesome, and they were truly wonderful. However this was definitely a big ensemble piece and the rest of the cast should not go without mention. Andrew Iles, Tamlynn Bryson, Duncan Rowe, Hayley Joy and Joseph Zita were all marvellous, some of them also having to inhabit multiple characters. But truly, the whole cast so expertly brought these people to life, making us try to understand the mind of the killer, and simultaneously make us feel bad for the poor woman who was driven to such desperate action.

One thing that I found particularly interesting that I wanted to analyze a little more deeply was the space itself. It’s very interesting to be in a very small theatre like the Studio for this show. The space makes a great difference in how we as the audience feel depending on the type of play. If the play is a comedy, then the audience very much so feels a part of the play, as the actors are apt to move through the audience and it feels like a very inclusive event, which is the overall goal of comedy. However, with tragedy or with a tense drama like Blood Relations, the small space has a very different effect. For me, I felt like I was trapped, especially during the second act when you know what Lizzie is going to do. With the space so small, you realize that the action of the play is merely feet away from you, which is fun…except for when someone is murdering someone else. Suddenly you realize there’s nowhere else to go, you must stay there and watch what happens, and there is not an easy way to distance yourself by saying “oh, but that’s up there, on stage, not here” when ‘here’ is only a few feet away from ‘there’.  Therefore I felt that this space worked so well for this play, and it certainly had the desired effect on me and my friend. I’ll never look at an axe the same way again!

There is still this weekend and one more weekend to catch this terrifying thriller! You can call the Box Office at 519-253-3000 x. 2808 or you can order tickets online at


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