Dramatic W.O. Mitchell


269 pages
Contains Illustrations
ISBN 0-7715-9728-2




Reviewed by Susan Patrick

Susan Patrick is a librarian at Ryerson Polytechnical University.


This book is a collection of five plays by the author of the classic Canadian novel Who Has Seen the Wind? In “Back to Beulah,” a gripping and entertaining play that won both the Chalmers Award and the Canadian Authors’ Association Award for drama, Mitchell deals with the thin line between emotional stability and instability, examining the relationships between three mentally disturbed patients and their doctor. “The Black Bonspiel of Wullie MacCrimmon” is a comic fantasy of a man who bargains with the devil and wins. “The Kite,” based on Mitchell’s novel of the same name, centres on the birthday of the world’s oldest man. Despite its humourous overtones, this drama about the need to love and be loved makes an impact. “The Devil’s Instrument,” set in a Huttenite community, concerns a young man’s internal struggle over whether to accept the rigid teachings of his church, or to break with his past and leave the community in search of freedom.

Although these plays present very diverse characters and situations, they are linked by a common theme of the right of individuals to make their own choices in life, particularly in the face of an individual or society that is trying to impose its own value system on another individual or group. “For Those in Peril on the Sea” shares a common theme with “The Kite” and, to a certain extent, with “The Devil’s Instrument” — they all deal with a fatherless adolescent boy who has to come to terms with life and death. This last play in the collection is a powerful one about a group of misfits living rather disagreeably together in a boarding house. The death of one of their members and the attempted suicide of another act as a catalyst for the characters to reexamine their own lives and their relationships with each other, finally realizing that they must work together if they are to survive for, lost as they all are, they have only each other.

In these five plays, Mitchell draws his characters with humour and humanity and with insight into the foibles of human nature. The plays make for entertaining reading, but they also give pause for thought about the nature of human relationships.



Mitchell, W.O., “Dramatic W.O. Mitchell,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/37382.