107 pages
ISBN 1-894294-65-3
DDC C812'.6





Reviewed by Ian C. Nelson

Ian C. Nelson, Librarian Emeritus, former Assistant Director of
Libraries (University of Saskatchewan) and dramaturge (Festival de la
Dramaturgie des Prairies).


After a checkered career on the mainland, Frank Barry finally returned
to his native Newfoundland and a job with the traditional folk-rock
group Figgy Duff. In 1979, he co-founded Sheila’s Brush Theatre Co.,
and he has worked in the theatre as a writer, an actor, a dancer, and a
director. He has written six plays. A Newfoundland critic who saw a
production of Wreckhouse in 2002 and also reviewed the published script
noted the “clever allusions to the cannibalization of culture” and
all the “petty irritations and grudges Newfoundlanders hold against
the supercilious generic ‘Mainlanders.’”

The statement accurately characterizes the gist and power of Act III of
the piece. The dramatic human soup in this final act provides highly
amusing and well-focused satire, at least until the final pages.
Unfortunately, the author then undermines his point by posing an
otherwise interesting conundrum: is the main character dreaming (a
rather clichéd framing device for many plays) or being dreamed (a
perspective that might well have merited following through)? So much for
Act III. The premise, therefore, is that of hapless tourists wandering
onto the Island with preconceived notions of the quaint and folkloric
and subsequently being cannibalized (literally) by a lost tribe of
ьber- Newfoundlanders.

The tone of the whole play is at once savage, antic, and
semi-absurdist. It must be said that the first two acts are full of
imagination in terms of giving voice and image to a host of bizarre
characters (“are there any normal people left?”), and the wild
verbal play (“without words we’d be fidget mints of our own
imagination”) is amusing per se. But, with the exception of two
characters, the unbridled exuberance for the most part thwarts any
effort to achieve distinctive voices. In fact, these introductory acts
seem to be warm-up exercises in storytelling: amusing and occasionally
intriguing, but not contributing much to a dramatic through-line.

One is led to agree largely with one of the characters when he says
“we’re just stuck out here in another one of your goddamn
brainstorms.” This is a script for specialized collections and actors
looking for offbeat monologue material.


Barry, Frank., “Wreckhouse,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 13, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/14782.