The Fred Wells Show - stikes gold

BC's history is filled with lunatics and eccentrics, The Fred Wells Show celebrates one of them.

The Fred Wells Show chronicles the real life journey of Fred Marshall Wells to the Caribou Mountains during the depression and his sheer determination to search for gold.

During the doom of the depression, Wells (James Douglas), an American prospector ventured into the Caribou. The last gold rush in the area was in the 1860s but Wells believed there was still gold in those mountains. He was ambitious in his attempts to find investors to fund his mission. The mining association of British Columbia was opposed, so instead Wells found investors outside of Canada. Finally he discovered gold in the mountains, thereby causing the Caribou Quartz Mine to boom into activity and people to arrive in droves. This was the second gold rush Wells had predicted. Destitute families finally had jobs and a little town was created. The town of Wells (named after Fred) still survives to this day with the same historical community centre, theatre and home of Fred Wells.

A historical play can sometimes go on for ever and feel like a classroom lesson but The Fred Wells Show does not step into this territory. Danette Boucher writer and director creates a simple and poignant piece of storytelling. Douglas gracefully portrays this charismatic man who only liked two things: prospecting and pancakes. I enjoyed all of the historical background on a town and gold rush that I’d never learned about in high school or university. The personal facts and quirks are hilarious. For example, once Wells became successful he was able to own a house but instead of living in the house he offered the home to his cook and driver; while Wells pitched a tent in the backyard.

My only criticism: I wish it was longer. The piece was only 45 minutes and I wanted more.

Just a little side bar, I have a personal attachment to the city of Wells, having performed my play at the Sunset Theatre. Now, the gold may not be there in the mountains anymore but it radiates from the hearts of the people who make up that community.

Everyone should go see this striking piece of storytelling. There is also a free show on Friday the 29th at 4:00pm in celebration of the 150 anniversary of British Columbia.

The Fred Wells Show by Danette Boucher and James Douglas Part of the 2008 Victoria Fringe Festival, it runs at Venue 4 (St Andrew’s Gym) on the following dates Wed 27 6:00 • Fri 29 4:00 (free) • Sat 30 2:30 • Sun 31 6:45. For more information, start digging here.

By Laura Harris