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RH Thomson kept the crowd enthralled at the South Grey Museum fundraiser

RH Thomson in Anne with an E

RH Thomson as Matthew Cuthbert in Anne with an E. Photo: CBC

BY SOUTHGREY.CA STAFF — Peace, reconciliation and remembrance were on the mind of RH Thomson at the 6th annual South Grey Museum fundraiser on Saturday, June 8. "I hope I ramble coherently," he said, before launching into his presentation of A Guy called Robert: Storytelling for Canada to a packed house at the Flesherton Kinplex.

"There are only five stories," said Thomson, "...and we keep telling them over and over and over again." He went on to list them:

  1. The kill or be-killed story – dangerous and compelling, it is often illustrated as a chase, on foot or by car
  2. The love story - the imperative union to survive, also comprising a return to God and/or union with the universe
  3. The who-done-it? - where the truth is witheld from us but eventually uncovered by a hero/heroine
  4. The transformation story - often ending with redemption for past behaviour
  5. The creation story - the most difficult story to tell and most often found in religious tales

RH Thomson, Dixie Seatle and Geoff Bowes

RH Thomson poses with fellow thespians Dixie Seatle and Geoff Bowes.

Often emotional during the evening, Thomson began his presentation discussing the two-part CBC mini series adaptation of a Guy Vanderhaeg book that he acted in called The Englishman's Boy. The production won six Gemini Awards in 1996 and the book was given the Governor General's Award for English Language Fiction.

The story, as he related it to the audience, reconstructs the journey taken from the northern United States into the Canadian plains by a group of men in pursuit of their stolen horses. The trip turns violent as the men murder the peaceful residents of a native village. Many years later in 1920s Hollywood, the story is revealed to an eager young screenwriter by one of the cowboys who took part in the massacre. Remorseful for his part, the cowboy hopes that by finally accounting for the horror of this event, he will find some redemption in its retelling. But a Hollywood producer's movie version flips the truth on its head and makes heroes of the cowboys while villainizing the natives. "There are many ways to tell a story," said Thomson who went on to add that throughout our history, "our stories have only been told from the white point of view."

The Englishman's Boy photo from the movie

RH Thomson (far left) in a scene from The Englishman's Boy. Photo: Minds Eye Entertainment.

Thomson segued into a discussion of war, describing The World Remembers, a project he co-produced about remembrance, education and the understanding of World War I (WWI). The ambitious undertaking set out to name as many of the victims of WWI as they could uncover through pictures and archival records. The scale of the project was large, spanning 13 countries to date and included names from both sides of the conflict. Despite many political challenges, the project has managed to dispel many of the assumptions made about war by exposing its personal costs to all sides involved.

Dinah Christie and Terry Mokriy 

Guest host Dinah Christie shares a laugh with MC Terry Mokriy during the intermission.

Terry Mokriy MC'd the event. Clarinetist Sean Derraugh entertained the audience, playing 3 selections by Canadian composers. Versatile Canadian performers Dinah Christie, Dixie Seatle and Geoff Bowes were also recognized as guest hosts during the evening. The silent auction drew a lot of interest featuring donations from local businesses. South Grey Museum Curator Robert Iantorno acknowledged the generous support for the fundraiser. Money raised at the event will be used to build an outdoor stage and raised gardens at the museum.

RH Thomson noted that while storytelling is more than 32,000 years old, it still "lands in us hard", speaking about actors like himself who have an insatiable desire to tell stories. He explained that after a period of limited creativity where only three networks ruled the airwaves, we now find ourselves in a world where creativity is not limited by corporate sensibilities. A new financial model for entertainment publication exists. "Subscription-based global behemoths like Google, Amazon and Netflix have taken over," he said. Currently playing Matthew Cuthbert in the CBC-Netflix collaboration Anne with an E., he added, " I'm working for one of the behemoths!"

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