Gabrielle Rose faces the darkness in ‘The Full Light of Day’
It’s not an exaggeration to say that Gabrielle Rose sits in the pantheon of Canadian acting legends.
She’s constantly adding to an impressive filmography that features iconic fare like The Sweet Hereafter, Maudie, Robson Arms, and The X-Files. Her list of stage credits is equally lengthy and includes farce, tragedies, and multiple characters (including Ethel Rosenberg and a rabbi) in the Arts Club’s 2017 production of Angels in America. She’s won numerous awards, including five Leos and UBCP/ACTRA’s Lorena Gale Woman of Distinction Award. In 2007, Women in Film & Television Vancouver named her Woman of the Year.
Rose has played all manner of emotions and character arcs in all manner of screen and stage projects – which makes it all the more remarkable that she’s currently going places she’s rarely gone before, in a notable new work that challenges conventions and defies classification.
Rose portrays the central character of Mary in The Full Light of Day, a multimedia spectacle that premiered earlier this week at the Vancouver Playhouse. The Electric Company production was written by Daniel Brooks and directed by Kim Collier, and blends stage performance with live and recorded film to tell the story of a wealthy Canadian family whose privileged life is built on real estate, systemic corruption, and secrets.
Mary represents a different kind of role for Rose. “She’s fairly passive,” says Rose in a recent phone interview. “She’s got a great wit, and she’s a kind and intelligent human being, but she’s a passive person. Normally, I play quite aggressive people – people with edge – and she doesn’t have that, and that’s been a challenge to me to not indulge that part of my nature, to find this very soft core of this human being. It’s very different than what I normally play.”
Rose describes Mary as a woman of privilege: lovely and graceful, with a beautiful soul. Mary is mother to three grown children and wife to Harold, the latter of whom is “a patriarch in every sense of the word.”
“Harold has built a mini-empire, not a huge one, but enough that they live this very easy life, but at what cost is the question,” continues Rose. “She’s been kept in the dark about some of the more nefarious goings-on of the family. The family’s kept her sheltered. She’s lived a sheltered life, and she enjoys it, and slowly, she starts to question what is happening, and her part in it, and she faces the dark hour, the place where she has to go to the dark side of the moon to look at her culpability and complicity in the life that she’s led.”
Rose joined the project more than a year ago, when the text was still in its workshop phase. Since that time, the cast and creatives involved have engaged in numerous conversations about “complicity and the nature of culpability, and how you can still be a good person and do bad things, and be part of it by just being quiet,” says Rose.
It’s a behaviour that’s embedded in our cultural DNA, especially for women, says Rose. “Women are brought up to be nice,” she says. “When I was a young girl, you kept your legs together, you crossed your feet at the ankles, and you smiled. You were told to be agreeable. You spoke in low tones.”
This is precisely how a character like Mary would have been brought up, says Rose: consumed with manners. “You now have an older woman who perhaps was brought up with all of that training, and now finds she hasn’t used her voice to speak up because her actual basic nature doesn’t agree with what has happened. She never spoke up. She never said, ‘Stop.’”
The Full Light of Day is a stage adaptation of a screenplay “beautifully written by Daniel Brooks,” enthuses Rose. “We use film, we use live cameras, we use film that’s already been filmed, we’ve got a car, we’ve got lights and music – oh, the score is gorgeous – and the set changes are huge, so there’s a lot of challenges and quick changes because what we’re trying to do is get that feeling of the film, where you go from one place to another seamlessly. It’s not a drawing-room comedy. It goes boom, boom, boom.”
The Full Light of Day also stars Jim Mezon, Dean Paul Gibson, John Ng, Jonathon Young, Jenny Young, Jillian Fargey, Henry Bolan, Nita Bowerman, William Ford Hopkins, Carlen Escarraga, and Stephanie Wong.
The Full Light of Day runs until January 12 at the Vancouver Playhouse. Tickets from $19.99 at https://www.electriccompanytheatre.com/show/thefulllightofday/.
Top photo by Don Lee