Thank heaven for this wonderful and witty play about Satan, soles and souls – and the power of suggestion.
Theatre North West has truly outdone itself working with a time-honoured play by W. O. Mitchell and bringing together a talented team of actors and artistic people who deserve a huge standing ovation.
The surprise special effects, sound, lighting and costume design are real attention-getters. I was fascinated to see during intermission the clever and very efficient transformation of the stage into a convincing curling rink.
William Vickers is, as always, brilliant in his lead role. As a 1930s growly but gregarious small-town Alberta shoemaker, Wullie MacCrimmon has a passion for curling and dreams of leading (well skipping) his team into victory in the Brier. Vickers has taken on a Scots accent and “wily Wullie” personna with great skill and has paid careful attention detail.
Watch closely and see him perform his shoemaking duties, actually appearing to work with the soles of shoes and the tools of the trade.
His performance in Black Bonspiel is just one more reason why Vickers will be seen on the TNW stage again, and again.
Stefano Giulianetti is an extraordinary talent and while his character, “travelling salesman” O. Clutie – the devil – likes to blow hot smoke and flames, he really is a breath of fresh air on stage. He is perfect for the role. He has precise timing (cue perfect with special effects) and well-paced delivery of lines. Giulianetti is “blessed” with a devilish smile and sly demeanour. And for just one instant he got me to believe – no, never. Not for this Anglican girl raised on tenets of the Church of England, for heaven’s sake.
Kirk Smith (for TNW Home Ice) as the Reverend Pringle is a fantastic foil for the devil. In one scene, in which there is a “heavenly miracle” on the rink in a game between MacCrimmon’s team and devil’s team (a motley crew made up of hell raisers Marie Antoinette, Judas Iscariot and Macbeth), rocks land perfectly aligned in the house and Smith’s reaction has the audience in gales of laughter.
I enjoyed the performance of Deb Williams as Clock or “don’t call me Shirley” Brown. She’s a real team player – not just on MacCrimmon’s curling team but as cast mate too. Williams took care to shine at the right times (with sarcastic lines directed at misfit curlers on the devil’s team) but never tries to steal the show.
Prince George actor Zarrah Holvick as Marie Antoinette brings a new hilarity to the monarch who it is said suggested her starving subjects eat cake. Here, I once again have to applaud the costume mistress Marian Truscott and note that Holvick uses to great effect her outlandish cork curls white wig and voluminous dress.
Paul Herbert as Macbeth has to be one of the most delightful and spirited actors around.
I found myself laughing out loud as he spat out, in mock dramatic form, the famous quotes from Macbeth. A simply charming and fun performance.
Kim Kondrashoff as Pipe Fitting Charlie Brown and Kent Allen as Malleable (and henpecked) Charlie Brown are very good in supporting roles as MacCrimmon’s pals and curling mates. Nigel McInnis has a small role as Judas Iscariot, but he can always be relied upon for putting in a notable performance.
I will probably burn in hell for saying this but my evening spent with the devil himself was a riotous romp that I will never forget.
Bravo Theatre North West.
The Black Bonspiel of Wullie MacCrimmon by W. O. Mitchell runs until March 4 at Theatre North West. Tickets are at Books and Company. (Check the website www.theatrenorthwet.com for next season’s box office options.)