Popular Performance Plays of Canada, Volume 2


Contains Illustrations
ISBN 0-88924-115-5





Edited by Marian M. Wilson
Reviewed by Renate Usmiani

Renate Usmiani was Professor of English at Mount St. Vincent University in Halifax.


Volume Two of the Popular Performance Plays of Canada series follows the format of the first volume. Plays are selected for “their range of theatrical styles and their commercial viability.” The book is especially valuable for amateur groups, as it provides detailed technical information for each work (list of properties; costume; sound; lighting and set), as well as a production history and some background on the author. All of the plays have small casts (maximum eight) and relatively simple set requirements.

By far the most interesting and sophisticated work is Peter Colley’s You’ll Get Used to It!....The War Show. Not a play in the strict sense of the word, this is a cabaret-style “show” or revue, which deals with the Canadian involvement in World War II in a breezy manner, although some of the pathos, fear, and agony does come through. Colley uses documentary material (slides, excerpts from speeches) to create a historical background, and such revue techniques as songs, mime, short skits, vaudeville routines, and monologue to create his mostly humorous, sometimes pathetic glimpses of the human stories behind the headlines. Some of the monologues are especially effective.

Of the remaining plays, Sandra Dempsey’s docu-drama D’Arcy presents the greatest challenge for production: its two acts are based on one actor, who must create the character of Thomas D’Arcy McGee, Irish freedom fighter and Canadian federalist. Only an actor of extraordinary capability and stamina could carry it off.

John Ibbitson’s comedy Mayonnaise, the story of two Canadians caught in a London blizzard, contains some amusing lines, but remains at the sit-com level. Beth McMaster’s two nicely performable plays for children, Happy Holly and Christmas Cards, round out the volume.


“Popular Performance Plays of Canada, Volume 2,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 19, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/38625.