Review: PROUD plus a comment on the Factory Theatre crisis

by Lynn on September 29, 2012

in The Passionate Playgoer

The following show was broadcast on Friday, Sept. 28, 2012 on CIUT FRIDAY MORNING, 89.5 FM. PROUD at the Berkeley Street Theatre, Upstairs until Oct. 6. And a comment on the Factory Theatre Situation.


1) Good Friday Morning. It’s time for some theatre comments by Lynn Slotkin, our theatre critic and passionate playgoer. Hi Lynn. Was it a busy theatre week?

Eventful would be more like it. The long awaited production of PROUD by Michael Healey opened at the Berkeley Street Theatre, Upstairs.

This is the play that Healey wrote at Tarragon Theatre as one of the writers-in-residence, but was not programmed in the Tarragon season by artistic director Richard Rose.

The play is about a Prime Minister named Harper. Rose apparently was advised that the prime minister might find the play unacceptable and perhaps might sue—that’s one theory. So Rose refused to programme it in his season and Healey left Tarragon after fruitful 10 years of writing there and seeing many of his plays produced there. Healey took this to the media arguing that he showed the play to his lawyer and the lawyer did not find anything libellous about it.

Richard Rose remained silent and didn’t give his side of the story, perhaps thinking he doesn’t have to and that it’s a private, confidential matter how decisions are made about programming etc.

Through tenacity and resolve Healey is producing the play himself and starring in it.


2) Ok, that’s the background. What’s the play about?

It’s Healey’s final play in a trilogy about politics and the people. He examines the thinking of the Prime Minister, his beliefs, ideas, Machiavellian thought processes. It’s just after the election and the Conservatives have a majority.

A projection on the back wall of the stage asks us to imaging that all those seats won by the NDP in Quebec were in fact won by the Conservatives. So it’s a huge majority. The Prime Minister tells his party in a speech that they now have no personal lives. They are not to discuss what they do with anyone, and that includes loved ones—wives, husbands etc.

If they have a problem then come to him and only him. They do not speak to the press at all, unless presumably the PM oks it. One MP, Jizbella Lyth, from a small community in Quebec takes him up on it. She bursts into his office, while he’s talking to his chief of staff, and wonders if either of them has a condom.

She’s being interviewed by some reporter and things are getting hot and heavy and Ms Lyth needs a condom. We learn that Ms Lyth is a lightweight in politics, with no experience and apparently was not even in her riding when she signed her papers to run.

Does that sound familiar? In Ms Lyth, the Prime Minister has the perfect foil.

3) How so?

He’s going to use her to distract the press from his real intentions. He’s going to have her introduce a private member’s bill about a volatile subject—read the latest headlines and you know what it is– seemingly without his knowledge, chew her out so that the press can witness it, and then watch the press be occupied with that story, while he goes about making government/parliament/privy council smaller.

There are also many musings by the PM about government, economics, ideals, the difference between tactics and strategy, and the many things he couldn’t care less about—which is mostly everything, (healthcare, unemployment, etc.)

The writing is full of Healey’s usual wit, smarts, perception certainly about politics and imagination, but all that doesn’t make this a play.

4) How can that be?

You have a play when two people want the same thing for themselves. The wrangling is the drama. Ms Lyth doesn’t buck the Prime Minister. She might occasionally go off on her own tangent but PM is wily and knows how to manipulate any situation so that it doesn’t matter. He will get his way. If anything PROUD is more a lecture about the PM’s philosophies with a willing and present listener.

He always wants to talk politics and she misreads that to mean he wants to have sex with her. It’s momentarily funny but it weakens an already weak ‘play’. And what is this business of trying to distract the press so he can do what he really wants to do? Why should he care? HE’S GOT A MAJORITY. He can and does do whatever he likes. And recent headlines of our PM shoving through an ominbus bill without impediment, proves the point and weakens the ‘play’ further. A lot of esoteric musings without a solid centre.

5) How is it as a production?

It’s thoughtfully directed by Miles Potter. I love that the PM’s desk is absolutely clear except perhaps for a file. That speaks volumes.

I think it’s unfortunate that Healey also plays the PM. While his timing is terrific—he does know where his jokes are, Healey is not a stellar actor. He has a droning voice and a limited amount of facial expression. I wonder what this would be like with another actor.

That said the best person in it is Maev Beaty as Jizbella Lyth. She makes the character seem more intelligent than she is as written. Beaty is always thinking—I don’t think the character necessarily is. Beaty makes Jizbella flaky, provocative, sensual, and compelling. She is a bright spot in a disappointing play.

And on another note, in the programme the actors are listed but not the characters they play. What is that? I find that so aggravating, pretentious(?). Are we supposed to know by magic?

6) What else made this week eventful?

The latest news on the Factory Theatre crisis. We recall Ken Gass, the artistic director was fired by the Board because of a disagreement about the extent of the renovations/development of the building. The community was up in arms.

Two playwrights pulled their plays from the Factory season in protest. Petitions to reinstate Ken Gass and boycott the theatre were circulated. They wanted Mr. Gass reinstated and mediation to take place.

We had both Ken Gass and Ron Struys the Board Chair on the show to give their sides. It was announced a bit later that they would meet to discuss mediation.

Two interim artistic directors were appointed to carry on the operation of the theatre. Apparently after two weeks of trying to arrange mediation and a meeting that didn’t work out and Ken Gass issued a statement accusing the board of working in bad faith.

And that he was through with the whole mess and would have nothing to do with Factory ever again under the circumstances. He said the board should resign. Recently there was another letter from those wanting a boycott, demanding accountability of the board and dialogue.

It’s a public relations fiasco from the Board’s handling of this. You would think with their experience they would know better. Shades of the arrogance of the Prime Minister in PROUD!!! Is there a play there?

7) What do you think is going on?


I think the board wanted Ken out and they got their wish. Something is wrong when mediation takes so long and then ends quickly. I don’t think they had any intention of mediation.

Struys told me after the interview they were very close to finalizing a replacement play for one of the cancelled ones. So far not a word. Countries have been created in shorter time than getting information or any positive movement out of this Board.

The Factory Theatre is publicly funded by various government bodies which means there has to be some accountability to the public. Where is it? As I said, a mess.

Thanks Lynn. That was Lynn Slotkin, our theatre critic and passionate playgoer. You can read Lynn’s blog at

>PROUD plays at the Berkeley Street Theatre, Upstairs until Oct. 6.

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