Skip to main content
nestruck on theatre
Open this photo in gallery:

An Intervention, a play about two friends who fall out over a war in the Middle East, written by Mike Bartlett. Kate Craven (L) plays A and Christiaan Westerveld plays B.Supplied

Can people who support opposite sides of a war in the Middle East remain friends?

An Intervention is a 2014 British play by Mike Bartlett (King Charles III, Cock) that asks just that. The two-hander is having its timely Canadian premiere this week courtesy of Mitch and Murray Productions in Vancouver.

While both a B.C. theatre company and a festival in the province recently cancelled runs of a show set in the Middle East after the war in Gaza began, Mitch and Murray’s artistic director Aaron Craven actually only decided to program this play (and direct it) after that conflict broke out this fall.

His company had been kicking An Intervention around for a while (having previously produced Bartlett’s play Snowflake), but suddenly it felt like it had been written for this very moment. “I’m seeing friendships fracture,” said Craven, in a phone interview during tech rehearsals.

The director notes that a political disagreement over the Middle East is only the inciting incident in the play about two characters known as A and B – one of whom supports an unspecified war there, and the other who is out on the streets protesting it.

Bartlett’s characters then go to surprising places as his play explores what friendships mean in polarized, politicized times. “Are they resilient to discomfort, or are they as disposable as all the other things in our world?” asks Craven.

As The Guardian’s Lynn Gardner wrote in her review back in 2014, “With so many conflicts in the headlines, this punchy play provocatively questions our responsibilities as friends and citizens who sometimes let each other down.”

The Runner, the aforementioned Canadian play by Christopher Morris set in Israel that was cancelled twice in B.C. this winter following petitions and planned protests and a series of events too complex (and convoluted) to fully detail again in this newsletter, was originally set to go up on the boards at the Belfry Theatre in Victoria just about now.

That theatre’s artistic director, Michael Shamata, has yet to agree to any interviews about the decision – though you can still read, on the Belfry website, his self-congratulatory essay from exactly a decade ago about programming Michael Healey’s Proud after Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre decided not to do so.

“I was sad to see that The Runner was pulled in both places,” says Craven. “You have to try to stick to your artistic principles and vision especially in troubled times.”

An Intervention, which stars Kate Craven and Christiaan Westerveld, runs March 8 to 17 at Performance Works on Granville Island

Two to see on stage this week across Canada

1. Director Daryl Cloran’s production of As You Like It infused with songs by The Beatles has been a hit everywhere it has toured since it premiered at Vancouver’s Bard on the Beach in 2018. (That includes Edmonton, Winnipeg, Chicago, Milwaukee and Washington.) It’s now on stage to March 23 at Theatre Calgary with Chelsea Rose making her debut at the regional theatre in the role of Rosalind – and Betty Mitchell Award-winning actor Jan Alexandra Smith playing Jaques.

2. Dominoes at the Crossroads, a stage adaptation of the Giller Prize long-listed short story collection by Kaie Kellough that interweaves Caribbean Canadian tales from across the country with a bit of sci-fi mixed in, hits the stage in Montreal from March 7 to 16. Infinithéâtre artistic director Zach Fraser is the director and adaptor – and the show’s on at 3680 Jeanne-Mance St.

What’s opening this week in Toronto

- Talk is Free Theatre, a Barrie, Ont., company that punches way above its weight, is visiting Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre Theatre (to March 16) with its production of La Bête, David Hirson’s 1991 Molière-inspired verse comedy. The comedically gifted actor Mike Nadajewski, lately of the Shaw Festival, takes on the notoriously boorish character of Valere in this production directed by Dylan Trowbridge that got great reviews north of the 401.

- With lemonTree creations, Tarragon Theatre is co-producing the world premiere of 3 Fingers Back – a double-bill of plays by Donna-Michelle St. Bernard about captives and captors, respectively. I recently spoke with St. Bernard about how these plays (on to March 24) fit into her overarching 54ology project.

- Three Sisters: Soulpepper’s history with the works of Anton Chekhov continues to evolve with this Canadian premiere of an adaptation by lauded British playwright Inua Ellams set in Nigeria amid the Biafran Civil War. Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu of Obsidian Theatre directs a roll call of Canada’s best stage actors in this production on to March 24.

- Dead Elephants is a new play by Alexander Offord, described as being about “mourning, animals and technology that weaves semi-historical narratives of famous elephants around the story of a young couple grieving the loss of their infant child.” Good Old Neon, a company Offord co-runs, is producing the show at the Aki Studio Theatre from March 7 to 17.

- Last but not least, Lord of the Rings fans won’t need to flip a coin to decide whether or not to go see Neptune Theatre’s production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, which opens in previews tonight as part of the Off-Mirvish season and has already been extended at the CAA Theatre to April 6. My colleague Josh O’Kane spoke to its stars Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd, ex-hobbits both.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe