As a new theatre season dawns across the country, inquiring minds want to know: Will Prime Minister Stephen Harper venture down from 24 Sussex Dr. to 1233 Wellington St. W. in order to see himself satirized?
The Wellington Street address is the home of the Great Canadian Theatre Company, which is giving Proud, actor-playwright Michael Healey’s controversial dig at the PM, its much-anticipated Ottawa premiere.
Proud, you may remember, is the play that was allegedly too much of a legal risk for Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre to produce. Healey, however, went ahead and did an indie production in Toronto last fall, which attracted plaudits rather than lawsuits. That’s emboldened two other theatre companies, GCTC and Victoria’s Belfry, to stage it this season.
GCTC’s artistic director, Eric Coates, says the Prime Minister has been invited to the show but has yet to RSVP. “I’d like him to see it,” he adds, noting that Healey’s comedy is even-handed. “The play takes aim at political ideals across the spectrum.” Besides, having prorogued Parliament again, the man should have some free time on his hands. GCTC’s production, starring Healey, runs Sept. 10-29. If he can’t make those dates, the Belfry’s version, to star Rick Roberts, will be seen on Feb. 4-March 9.
Still, you can understand if the Prime Minister isn’t too keen to see himself reflected in Healey’s comic mirror. But there’s no reason why he shouldn’t partake of some of Canada’s many other theatre offerings during the 2013-14 season. So, in the same spirit (if not the same scope) as Yann Martel’s “What is Stephen Harper Reading?” project – in which the Life of Pi author sent the PM a recommended book every two weeks for four years – I humbly submit a list of shows Harper might want to see in the coming months. If nothing else, they should take his mind off the Senate spending debacle and the Syrian crisis.
Kill Me Now. As a church-going Albertan, Harper might be leery of attending a play by Brad Fraser, whose 1990s hits Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love and Poor Super Man made Edmonton and Calgary look like Sodom and Gomorrah. But Fraser has moved on and his latest work, premiering at Edmonton’s Workshop West (Sept. 6-22), is a family drama involving a widowed teacher and his disabled teenage son. That said, Fraser being Fraser, you can bet it’ll be provocative.
Venus in Fur. If, however, I’ve read him wrong and the Prime Minister does enjoy the occasional kinky entertainment, he should try to catch one of the Canadian productions of this recent New York hit. David Ives’s comedy is a contemporary riff on Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s classic 1870 novel about a dominatrix and her servile lover, which inspired the term “masochism” (as well as a great Velvet Underground song). If nothing else, it may provide some useful hints on how to keep naughty senators in line. Venus’s kinky boots will tread the boards at Toronto’s Canadian Stage (Sept. 29-Oct. 27), Vancouver’s Arts Club Theatre (Oct. 3-Nov. 2) and the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg (Oct. 24-Nov. 9).
Needles and Opium. Okay, this sounds more like something Justin Trudeau would like. But Robert Lepage’s hypnotic 1991 solo show, inspired by artist-addicts Miles Davis and Jean Cocteau, gives audiences a natural high. For its current revival Lepage has reworked the piece into a two-hander starring Marc Labrèche and Wellesley Robertson III. It visits Quebec City’s Le Trident (Sept. 17-Oct. 12), Canadian Stage (Nov. 22-Dec. 1) and Montreal’s Théâtre du Nouveau Monde (May 6-31).
Tartuffe. Should Harper need a shot of comedy, however, he’ll get his fix with this Atlantic-Canadian spin on Molière. Andy Jones of CODCO fame has adapted and stars in the classic satire of religious hypocrisy, relocated from 17th-century France to 1930s Newfoundland. Given that Jones infamously quit CODCO after the CBC banned his 1991 sketch about sexually repressed priests, the pairing seems divinely inspired. It premiered to acclaim last summer in historic Cupids, Nfld., but the PM doesn’t have to go any further than his own backyard to see the remount, running Oct. 15-Nov. 2 at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre.
Once. If he’s in the mood for a musical, productions of Mary Poppins are ubiquitous this season. But I’d suggest he give flying nannies a pass and instead go for this 2012 Tony Award-winner, based on the much-loved film about a struggling Irish musician and his Czech muse. We know Harper is partial to Beatles ballads and the heartfelt songs of Glen Hansard are closer to Lennon and McCartney than to Broadway treacle. The touring production strums its way to Toronto for a run at the Royal Alex, Nov. 26 to Jan. 5.
The Mountaintop. The recent 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech reminded us of his inspirational power as a leader and orator. Katori Hall’s Olivier Award-winning play, set on the night before King’s 1968 assassination, focuses instead on his human frailties. That, as much as anything, should make it necessary view-ing for politicians. The PM can see it in his hometown – the play’s Canadian premiere is at Theatre Calgary from March 25 to April 20.
Beatrice and Virgil. And finally, if Harper is missing Yann Martel’s biweekly shipment of books, he can always see this play for old times’ sake. Lindsay Cochrane has taken on the daunting task of adapting the novelist’s complex Holocaust fable, which had a far more ambivalent reception than Life of Pi. It makes its debut at Toronto’s Factory Theatre from April 12 to May 11.