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Theatre Orangeville presents Needles and Bell – a premiere on how to live rurally

March 21, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

“Our show is a guide to rural living for new arrivals,” said Dan Needles in a four way FaceTime interview. “Our population has doubled where I live – I thought it would be helpful to give them some guidance.”

Our fellows in this discussion of the upcoming More Confessions from the Ninth Concession, co-starring Dan Needles and Ian Bell, were Mr. Bell himself and Theatre Orangeville’s Artistic Director, David Nairn. This show opens at Theatre Orangeville March 23 and runs to April 10.

More Confessions deals with several subjects, Mr. Needles informed us.

For example, “Etiquette – what to say or more importantly what not say. Don’t nuke your neighbours,” he cautioned hyperbolically. “Choose your company for gossip – everyone’s related.”

Moving to the country from the city is much more involved than the city person might expect. “Everything’s easier in the city,” one might reason. Once, you turned on a tap and assumed all would be well; once, you could flush and know others were handling your emissions for you. Those were the days in the city but things are different now.

Luckily, Messrs Needles and Bell are here to set you straight.

“This a premiere for how to live in the country,” said Mr. Needles. “Like getting through the winter… there’s a chapter on safety.”

While the list of helpful instructions may sound like a serious matter, Dan Needles is the creator and playwright for the seven play Wingfield Farm series. Created more or less in his own image, Walt Wingfield makes the bold move from city insurance broker to gentleman farmer and those of you who have ever laughed and laughed as Rod Beattie delivered these plays, himself playing all the characters, will rightly anticipate an evening of fun from More Confessions from the Ninth Concession. The stories come from Dan Needles and the songs are contributed by Ian Bell.

One nice thing for the “blow-ins,” as they refer to newly arrived country residents, is your whole family was once “blow-ins, right back to Champlain.” Mr. Needles lives on a property that was “a native village back in the 1600’s.” 

Ian Bell is fascinated by the residents in the country. “I’m a student of eccentricities,” he told us all. For this spin from the Ninth Concession, he has written new material for a new show.

“This is a guide to what it’s like today but it’s a look forward, not a look back,” said he.

The two gentlemen did this show in Waterford, Mr. Bell’s home town.

“The audience was just delighted,” he commented. “to be out, to be in the theatre building. Everyone was wearing masks.”

The first Confessions from the Ninth Concession, a repartee of stories and songs by Mess’rs Needles and Bell was an opener to a new season at Theatre Orangeville and ran for only a weekend. More Confessions is running for three weeks – “they’ve been adding performances,” noted Dan Needles, who said as a side note, “David [Nairn] is a pioneer, setting an example [of how to keep the theatre vibrant even during the lockdown] to other theatres across the country.”

For his songs, Ian Bell admitted that he gets a lot of inspiration from the people with whom he interacts and has always enjoyed a lot of contact with his community. Now he lives in Paris, Ontario where he is a visual artist as well – “Writing songs and painting both scratch the some [artistic] itch.”

It is part of the reason for this show to deal with the explosion of “refugees from Toronto and Hamilton.” Audiences are encouraged to “bring a note book,” advised the humorists.

Mr. Bell said that friends of his had come to the first performance of the show and they loved the first song. Then they realized they “were the very people in the song…”

Due to the long-winded saga of Covid and its restrictiveness, this is their most delayed show. It was meant to be staged two years ago.

They started working on it a long time ago but at least, with such an extended delay, Mr. Needles was pleased to tease Mr. Nairn, “I made my deadline this time.”

From David Nairn, “This is really welcomed – it’s a reminder of why the show is a good idea. People who have lived here for a long time might be nervous about the increase in population. This freshens us up – it’s written for new and old residents.”

Both performers have really got themselves in shape for performing: Dan Needles has a new hip and Ian Bell is ready to go on with a new knee – “He’s back to tap,” his co-star assured us.

We head-counted the many reasons for coming to see the show.

“It’s worth it to hear Ian do the patter song [shades of Gilbert and Sullivan].”

Ian Bell really summed it all up, “One thing, artistic merit quite aside, to sit in a room with a bunch of people you might not know and laugh at us – it’s a fun show,” he promised. “A bit of an antidote to some things that are going on in the world. You can just forget it all for a couple of hours.”

The show is slated to be live streamed and available online from March 27.

More Confessions from the Ninth Concession opens at Theatre Orangeville on March 23 and runs until April 10. For information and tickets in person and online, go to or call the kindly people at the Box Office 519-942-3423.

By the bye, More Confessions from the Ninth Concession is rumoured to be coming up as a book. We will let you know when it does.

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