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Mag­gIe & pIerre by Linda Grif­fiths ñ

with Paul Thomp­son (time­share). At Tar­ragon The­atre Workspace (30 Bridg­man). Runs to May 19. $17-$22. tar­ragonthe­atre.com. See Con­tin­u­ing, this page. Rat­ing: NNNN

A little over a year after beloved play­wright and ac­tor Linda Grif­fiths died in Septem­ber 2014, Justin Trudeau, the son of Mar­garet Sin­clair and Pierre Trudeau, be­came Canada’s 23rd prime min­is­ter. This re­vival of her 1981 Dora award-win­ning solo show about the cur­rent PM’s fa­mous par­ents and their un­con­ven­tional mar­riage dur­ing the 1970s keeps Grif­fiths’s im­por­tant legacy alive, and fruit­fully ex­plores a piv­otal junc­ture in the Trudeau dy­nasty, one many Cana­di­ans are now too young to re­mem­ber.

With sharp di­rec­tion from Rob Kemp­son (Trigonom­e­try, Mock­ing­bird), Shake­speare in the Ruff artis­tic di­rec­tor Kait­lyn Rior­dan de­liv­ers an in­tense, in­spired per­for­mance as the show’s three char­ac­ters: the tit­u­lar cou­ple, and a fic­tional po­lit­i­cal re­porter. The story fol­lows the pair’s re­la­tion­ship from a chance en­counter in Tahiti to the halls of power in Ot­tawa, where Pierre serves as Canada’s first celebrity PM. The fo­cus is on the dy­namic of their di­ver­gent per­son­al­i­ties; sep­a­rated in age by nearly thirty years, Mag­gie is a free­wheel­ing he­do­nis­tic hip­pie, and Pierre a pa­ter­nal­is­tic and eru­dite self-ab­sorbed po­lit­i­cal vi­sion­ary.

Writ­ten in 1980, just after Trudeau left of­fice for the first time, and while the cou­ple was sep­a­rated but not yet di­vorced, Grif­fiths’s funny and in­ci­sive script was then con­tem­po­rary com­men­tary on why the pair cap­ti­vated a na­tion, but also how this fas­ci­na­tion re­flected and fur­ther po­lar­ized Cana­dian vot­ers.

To­day, Grif­fiths’s keen ob­ser­va­tions that Mag­gie’s ap­pre­hen­sion at be­ing thrust into the spot­light in her early twen­ties par­al­leled Canada’s in­fe­ri­or­ity com­plex among more pow­er­ful al- lies, and that her un­likely and tur­bu­lent mar­riage to Pierre was a po­tent metaphor for the pre­car­i­ous union that is Canada, serves as co­gent and in­sight­ful his­tor­i­cal anal­y­sis.

Rior­dan is cap­ti­vat­ing in all three roles, seam­lessly switch­ing be­tween hus­band and wife dur­ing rapid-fire ex­changes, and nail­ing Pierre’s well­known man­ner­isms, in­to­na­tion, wit and catch­phrases. As Mag­gie – here the emo­tional foil to Pierre’s lofty ra­tio­nal­ism – her per­for­mance high­lights a burn­ing, scat­ter­shot de­sire for fun, free­dom and ful­fill­ing ex­pe­ri­ences largely ab­sent from her clois­tered life at 24 Sus­sex Drive.

Kemp­son nicely de­picts this in­ner an­guish in a scene set at the Gov­er­nor Gen­eral’s Ball where Mag­gie’s in­tro­duc­tions to for­eign lead­ers are in­ter­rupted by quick trippy hits of dizzy­ing anx­i­ety, punc­tu­ated by Oz Weaver’s light­ing de­sign.

Per­formed in the round, Kemp­son makes imag­i­na­tive use of the stately liv­ing room set, with an ot­toman be­com­ing Pierre’s cam­paign soap­box, and a daybed trans­form­ing into the bank of a river Mag­gie looks out over.

With Rior­dan in com­mand of this fun, fast-paced and in­ti­mate blend­ing of his­tory, romance and fan­tasy, it’s fit­ting to para­phrase Pierre: just watch her. JOr­daN BIMM

THE­ATRE RE­VIEW Kait­lyn Rior­dan brings Canada’s leg­endary po­lit­i­cal cou­ple to life.

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