Canadian Drama and the Critics
David E. Kemp is a drama professor at Queen’s University and the
author of The Pleasures and Treasures of the United Kingdom.
Canadian Drama and the Critics, a selection of criticism compiled and edited by L.W. Conolly, Professor of Drama at the University of Guelph, is a lively, thought-provoking, and downright entertaining collection of reviews of 35 English-language plays written during the last fifty years. Ranging from the 1934 production of Herman Voaden’s “Hill-Land” through such landmark productions as “The Ecstasy of Rita Joe,” “Creeps,” “Leaving Home,” “The Farm Show,” “Waiting for the Parade,” “Blood Relations,” and “The Art of War,” Conolly’s book gives us the widest possible context through which to form our own judgments with respect to the development and quality of modem Canadian drama. The variety of the reviews is remarkable; Conolly has cast his net wide and has gathered material from books, theatre and scholarly journals, and major daily newspapers in Canada and abroad. Contributors include critics, academics, journalists, and the playwrights themselves and, indeed, it is this very diversity of opinion which makes this book so fascinating, entertaining, and instructive.
To have such a body of critical opinion in one collection is both convenient and enlightening, but the book is more than just a valuable resource. In a beautifully written and concise introduction Conolly develops the argument that readers and theatre-goers, as well as professional critics, can contribute significantly to the development of a vital Canadian theatre. He goes even further when he suggests that it is indeed our responsibility to respond actively to scripts and productions, “as we respond to all else that truly matters in our lives — with a genuine effort to understand, appreciate, and judge. “In a society which seems more and more actively to embrace the values of the Philistine, Conolly’s advice is most timely.
Canadian Drama and the Critics also contains detailed production information for the premiere of each play, and a comprehensive index. Anyone remotely interested in Canadian theatre will be fascinated by this book. For those of us whose commitment to the theatre in this country is ongoing and intense, this book will in many ways be the most important we place in our library.