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The Big Map

photo and image by Janet Baxter


The Big Map is a history of British Columbia made fun for all ages. Penelope Rickets, an award-winning lecturer, is on tour! But all does not go swimmingly for poor Penelope. Constantly bombarded by the inane antics of her bumbling sidekicks Bill and Edgar, Ms Rickets must resort to harsh tactics to subdue their buffoonery.

Using puppetry, poetry, song and dance, The Big Map dramatizes a record of BC’s history – a record that includes the lives of women, immigrants and aboriginals. The relationship between Penelope, Bill, and Edgar continually comes under fire as we learn about the conflicts that occurred throughout BC’s history between the underprivileged, the middle class, and the elite.

Creation of:

Sharon Heath, artistic director of Full Figure Theatre, initiated The Big Map as a millennium project to celebrate the history of British Columbia. Working in partnership with The Vancouver Public Library, The Millennium Bureau of Canada, BC2000, and The Hamber Foundation, Heath and historian Faith Moosang researched and wrote the first draft. Director Steven Hill then came on board to workshop The Big Map with actors Sharon Heath (Penelope), Lois Anderson (Bill), and Chris McGregor (Edgar).

Educational Content:

The Big Map is aimed toward students in grades four to twelve and presents as a dramatized lecture on the early history of British Columbia . Through the three characters, Penelope, Bill, and Edgar, The Big Map reveals a glimpse of what life was like in BC before and after European settlement.

By tracking changes in BC from the 1780s to the 1880s, we learn about First Nations, the Fur Trade, the Gold Rush, Early Immigration and Settlement, Coal Mining, the building of the National Railroad, and The Dominion of Canada. Stories of hardship provide keen observations on the history of BC’s developing social structure. Subject matter includes the life of the aboriginals and pioneers, colonialism, indentured labour, immigration, and industrialization.


The children absorbed a lot of information even through the roaring laughter and slapstick humour.” – Candace Mann, Director, Highlands Out of School Care Society.

“The Big Map provides comic relief and teaches at the same time.” – Cheryl Mullen, Johnston Heights Secondary School.

“I wish I could have had history presented to me in such an entertaining way.” – Barbara Fancy, Children’s Librarian, Burnaby Public Library.

“Take the kids and then tell your school to book The Big Map." – Deborah Williams, The Georgia Straight.