Canadian Play Festival

Love, death, magic 8 balls and ice hockey - productions in the newly developed Canadian Play Festival explore everything that matters in life.

Feature by Jonathan Liew | 15 Feb 2006

Canada as a country is a little like Phil Mitchell: large and unwieldy in appearance but ultimately toothless and perpetually overshadowed by its mightier, more famous sibling. Canadian theatre, on the other hand, is an altogether different kettle of moose. Having made inroads into the Edinburgh Fringe last summer, Evan Placey's comic farce 'Phone Play' being one particularly well-received example, it now warrants a festival all of its own. This February sees the inaugural Canadian Play Festival take place at Queen Margaret University College in breezy Leith. Taking place over five days, it showcases work by respected Canadian playwrights and the cream of the university's acting talent, with students doing all the performing and directing.

This year the theme is the central Canadian province of Alberta, and the three short plays that feature on the first night are all monologues by playwrights from the region. Ken Brown's 'My Life in Hockey' takes that most Canadian of sporting staples, ice hockey, and weaves a tale of adolescence and coming of age that is related on an ice rink. Ken Cameron's 'My Morocco' is a reflection of death and nationalism set in the context of the Arab world, while Neil Fleming's 'Tug' is a story all about love, the struggle of making a baby and how to put this delicately? - wanking.

The whole shebang has been put together by Robin Osman, a student at QMUC, who sees the festival as an opportunity to display work that is relatively disregarded in the capital for eleven months of the year. "It tries to promote international theatre in general, but English language theatre and Canadian theatre especially. We'd like to reach a young, 18-24, kind of audience. As far as choosing Alberta, it was really of most interest. In future years we're hoping to concentrate on the other provinces."

The second, third and final nights see the first European performances of Nicole Zylstra's 'Firebird: 220 Horses of the Apocalypse', a reinvention of 'Medea' that transposes the action to Brooks, Alberta and follows the journey through life of a young woman armed with nothing but a magic 8 ball and a pack of tarot cards. Osman is adamant that even though the plays are essentially Canadian, there are Scottish themes running through them all. "We wanted something in place that would have relevance to a Scottish audience, something we can identify as being Scottish." Besides, things like love, death and masturbation are something that everyone, even Canadians, can relate to.

Albertan Shorts, Feb 13 and 16; Firebird, Feb 14, 15 and 17; at Gateway Theatre, Edinburgh.