Fishing trip inspires play about guide

ON STAGE

Ocean Fo A Work in Progress

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Where: Intrepid Theatre Club, 1609 Blanshard St.

When: Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $10 (ticketrocket.org)

Jef Fox found his place in paradise - the transplanted American has spent the past 30 years working as a dive master in the Bahamas. His unconventional life centred on deep-sea adventure is now the subject of the new play Ocean Fo A Work in Progress, which premieres in Victoria Friday and Saturday.

"The play is a look into a man who refused change as he got older, having achieved what he believed to be paradise," said Jude Allen, co-founder of Victoria's Castlereigh Theatre Project.

Now 65, Fox is settled on Harbour Island, a tiny islet known for pink sand beaches and gentle turquoise waves.

A chance meeting on a deep-sea fishing excursion sparked the idea for Ocean Fox. Allen and his sister Francesca Albright were enjoying a 10-day vacation when they started talking to their guide, an intriguing man who listened intently to passengers on the boat.

"In getting into the water and seeing what he had exposed us to, it elevated him beyond what one might plainly see," Allen said.

The 2010 encounter was followed by a month-long research trip the following year. This time, the sibling team was prepared to investigate the details of Fox's life.

"We went to Harbour Island to conduct interviews with Jef and people that knew him," Allen said.

With 70 hours of interviews, Allen and Albright formed a docudrama that is an intimate portrayal of one man's life. Research was condensed into 13 characters, and all of them will be played by actor Rhys Finnick.

"We hope we'll actually accentuate the factual information we gathered," Allen said, adding that the play is as much about the environment of Harbour Island as Fox himself.

"I hope the audience can even momentarily involve themselves in that concept of the Bahamas."

Allen and Albright have kept in touch with Fox, who hasn't seen the current version of the play.

Allen said it's still a work in progress.

"We would like to think it maintains his character," Allen said, describing Fox as an honest and likable man. "He's very true to himself and a very hard worker. Everything he has, he's earned."

Included in the play's discussion, Allen said, are themes of island life and the passage of time. In many ways the play is a retrospective of Fox's past 30 years.

"The play basically follows Jef at a point where he's finding the path of peace," Allen said.

He added that he'd eventually like to stage the play on Harbour Island.

Ocean Fo A Work In Progress plays at the Intrepid Theatre Club, 1609 Blanshard St. It runs for about an hour on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.

Doors open at 7 and tickets are $10, available through ticketrocket.org.

cclancy@timescolonist.com

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