A Neptune Theatre Review
Until March 12th, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams will be on stage at Neptune Theatre. J. Kelly Nestruck from the Globe and Mail wrote that this play was “a great small work of art.” For me, this play was far more personal than what any columnist could pen.
The stories of Joseph R. Smallwood were always circling the air during my days growing up in in the bay. Spirits from the outports still damn his name. Their homes towed away during the resettlement days.
I may have left home 22 years ago but Newfoundland will forever hold my heart with a firm grip. My roots planted by immigrants; those that came from across the pond to enjoy the bounty of the new found colony. My ancestor’s British blood would change hands in 1949 because of Joey. But how different would it have been if Mr. Smallwood didn’t walk the rails to rally up support to make Newfoundland and Labrador a province of Canada? I have always wondered about that, I always will to some extent. This production made me think some more.
Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea
Robert Chafe’s adaptation of Wayne Johnston’s book The Colony of Unrequited Dreams was heavy, to say the least. A story that revolves around politics is not everyone’s cup of tea, which is why at times I longed for something more while watching this Neptune production. I wanted to fast forward to the good stuff. The scenes between Joey and the love he longed for with Sheilagh Fielding (played by Carmen Grant) were the driving force of this production. It made the history lesson a little less monotonous.
The Colony of Unrequited Dreams
Colin Furlong’s portrayal of Mr. Smallwood was absolutely outstanding. Ms. Grant (Sheilagh Fielding) was equally as fabulous. But honestly, I wanted more of Clara, Joey’s wife. Pulling in that love triangle would have made the story far more engaging, in my opinion. When speaking to the actress that played Clara Smallwood, Willow Kean, I told her just that. “I wanted more of you,” her sweet reply followed with, “but it was their story,” but still that didn’t satisfy me. She probably thought I was saying that because she is a very good friend of mine. But it was more than that. I wanted more tension.
I get it, I do. This play was a history lesson (the politics being the part of the story that was based in fact, while the relationship with Sheilagh Fielding was fiction). The love story gave the play more fluidity. But why not more Clara? That is what I left with. I would love to see a one-woman show telling us Clara’s interpretation of this dream.
Get Your Tickets
Putting all my wants aside, this production was well worth the ticket price. It is an enjoyable way to learn more about how Newfoundland and Labrador became part of Canada. And while everyone celebrates Canada 150 this year, us Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will know that we are a few years shy of that number. But we celebrate none the less. We commemorate these stories from our past with Joey Smallwood being part of the picture. And whether you love him or hate him, he left his mark on our landscape. He is part of our heritage.
If you can find time this week to help support your local theatre I highly recommend that you do. If you are not from the HRM you can also catch this production as it travels our great country in the coming months. Knowing where we came from and how we got here is as important as ever. We don’t build walls here in Canada, we make art; big or small it still matters. It is what makes us more thoughtful human beings. It is what makes us love harder.