The New Canadian Curling Club

It’s Not Really About Curling

Reviewed by Vicki Stokes

Sitting in the audience at the South Huron Stage at Huron Country Playhouse, waiting for the play to begin, I overheard a man say “It’s not really about curling.” He was quite correct in his declaration. Despite the slippery surface, the rocks and the brooms, curling is only the backdrop.

Mark Crawford has a knack for collecting local reactions to newcomers and capturing the subtle or not-so-subtle racism. He also covers opinions about immigration and what it means to be Canadian. He takes all this and writes a hilarious play with deeper meanings. Having grown up in small-town Ontario, Crawford creates memorable and recognizable characters for all his plays, which have proven quite popular this year. Bed and Breakfast and Stag and Doe and The Birds and the Bees are three other plays on the stage this summer in Canada.

Stuart MacPhail, played to a T by John Jarvis, is someone we all know. He is the white dude, the older guy whose family has been in Canada for many generations. To him, Canada has Scottish origins, and curling is a truly Canadian sport because it was brought here so long ago. Never mind that he has Dutch neighbours whose families also emigrated generations ago. When he is recruited to teach a group of new Canadians – some of whom have been in the country for years – his true colours begin to show. Amusing indeed, because he initially reduces them down to their skin colours. But Stuart also has a heart and has had some trauma in his life. He is not an unsympathetic character.

Charmaine Bailey, skillfully played by Chiamaka Glory, was born in Jamaica but has lived in Canada for years, and was married to a blond man of Dutch ancestry. She manages the local Tim Hortons but has higher aspirations, and she helps bring refugees to Canada. She has brought the young Fatima, (performed hilariously by Zaynna Khalife), from Syria. Fatima’s English is still weak and she is often on her phone, preoccupied with family matters, but she is very clever.

Anoopjeet, whose name Stuart never quite masters, is an Indian man who has been in Canada for seven years and also works at Tims, hoping for a better life. Andrew Prashad plays the tall, uncoordinated Anoopjeet. He does an excellent job of looking initially inexperienced and klutzy on the ice and by the end of the play, he is, well, competent.

Mike Chang, performed brilliantly by Norman Yeung, is a med student dating Stuart’s granddaughter. He wants to live in Canada permanently but Stuart is resentful. Mike sounds Canadian but to folks like Stuart, he will never quite be accepted as such. Mike and Stuart have to work on their relationship if Mike is ever to become part of the family.

Several other characters are incorporated into the play by being heard offstage. This is a clever method to avoid cluttering the stage and diluting the message of the play. Specific portions of modern songs are played at various times to suit the mood. The lighting is used effectively to advance the games as well as to denote the scenes. The costumes are street clothes for the most part, but I love the nod to Eddie Van Halen’s iconic guitar, incorporated into the uniforms. Even if you don’t understand that reference, the uniforms are flashy and prove popular to the other teams. Having what seems like ice on the stage is especially unique. Everyone involved in every aspect of getting this play to the stage deserves a bow.

The banter and the jokes fly at a rapid pace, and it’s a struggle to catch everything, but don’t worry. Crawford has taken all the conversations about new Canadians and packed his play with familiar phrases, arguments and characters. It’s like a recipe, where he has used all the right ingredients to bake the perfect Timbits. This is your town, these are your issues, and the fun is in watching these characters deal with them. You don’t really have to know anything about or care in any way about curling.

The New Canadian Curling Club continues until August 20 at the Huron Country Playhouse, South Huron Stage. Tickets are available by calling the Box Office at 519-238-6000 or toll free at 1-855-372-9866, or by checking for availability.

Photo: Zaynna Khalife, Norman Yeung, Andrew Prashad, John Jarvis, and Chiamaka Glory. Photo by Drayton Entertainment.

The New Canadian Curling Club
Written by Mark Crawford
Directed by Jane Spence
Performed by Chiamaka Glory, John Jarvis, Zaynna Khalife, Andrew Prashad, Norman Yeung
Produced by Drayton Entertainment
South Huron Stage, Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend
August 3 to August 20, 2023
Review by Vicki Stokes


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