by Lynn on May 19, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Tarragon Work Space, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Linda Griffiths with Paul Thompson

Directed by Rob Kempson

Set and costume by Jung-Hye Kim

Sound by Steven Lafond

Lighting by Oz Weaver

Cast: Kaitlyn Riordan

A disappointment in that Kaitlyn Riordan only skimmed the surface of both Maggie and Pierre.

 The Story. Maggie and Pierre was written by Linda Griffiths with Paul Thompson and was first done in 1980, when I saw it with Linda Griffiths.  It covers the time in Canada from 1974 to 1980.  The play is about Margaret Sinclair, a flower child of 22,  was charmed by, fell in love with and married Pierre Elliot Trudeau age 51, the dapper Prime Minister of Canada. They met while she was on vacation with her parents.

Politics are touched on in the play. We see Trudeau saying to the press “just watch me” when they challenge how strong-armed he’s proposing to become in the FLQ crisis. But it’s mainly the personal side of these two larger than life people.

Maggie is naive flower-child Common sense did not seem to be her forte back then and so was a media darling because she trusted them and said things she shouldn’t have and they pounced to use it. Trudeau voices concern about how young Maggie is and her naivety in dealing with the press.

There is also a reporter who acts as a narrator commenting on the goings on, especially Maggie’s naivety.

The Production. Kaitlyn Riordan plays Maggie, Pierre and the reporter. Director Rob Kempson has set this in the round. Jung-Hye Kim’s set has all manner of props important to the story—a table with a telephone on it, a drinks table, another side table with a hat– situated around the set which would ensure that Riordan plays to all sides of the space. Rob Kempson keeps the pace flowing as Riordan flits from one character to another.

Maggie is played as a flighty, giddy woman. Riordan plays her with her white blouse out of the waistband of her trousers, loose.  As Trudeau she tucks in the shirt into her pants.  As the reporter, she might wear a crumpled fedora to set him off from Trudeau.

But for all the video clips that are out there on Trudeau and Margaret for that matter, I found Riordan’s performance just skims the surface. There is more to Trudeau than just lowering the voice. He had a particular speech patter and way of speaking and he had a way of carrying himself that said, “CONFIDENCE.”. I didn’t think Riordan explored this deeply enough.

His body language was more than slouching in a chair with his feet spread.

Ok, there is always a temptation to compare performances that one has seen before. It comes with seeing a lot of theatre. I try to keep away from that trap. Performances are different. The actor brings his/her own experience to a role.

And while the late Linda Griffith’s performance was so distinctive, I just thought that with all the news reels of Trudeau speaking over his career, that Kaitlyn Riordan would have had a more varied performance as both Maggie and Trudeau.  It was good to hear the play again—Linda Griffiths had such an interesting ear as a playwright and a sharp intellect.  I thought that this production could have done better to realize that play.

 Maggie and Pierre played at the Tarragon Work Space until May 19.

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