Theatre New Brunswick brings a touch of comedy to a tense election period with Micheal Healey’s 1979, directed by Natasha McLellan, staged from Oct. 16 to Oct. 26.
“I really believe that this play is a love letter of sorts to Joe—it tips its hat to a truly decent and ethical man, who wanted to serve his country and managed to make his mark, despite getting bowled over by life on The Hill,” writes MacLellan in her director’s note.
The one act play documents the final hours before the vote that ends Joe Clark’s term as Prime Minister, the political and personal figures in his life, and what they have to say about it.
An audience member entering the theatre becomes completely immersed, walking directly into Clark’s office, almost intruding in the conversations and meetings that take place within the wooden walls.
In Jeff Dingle’s portrayal of Joe Clark he depicts the “Progressive Conservative nobody” as morally decent, awkward, and affably out of place in the harsh political world of 1979.
Kevin Curran and Sarah O’Brecht feature as a number of professional and personal influences on Clark, including John Crosbie, Flora MacDonald, Brain Mulroney, Pierre Elliot Trudeau and Stephen Harper.
O’Brecht notes Harper as a particularly difficult character to portray, given the pressure surrounding him as a very well known, recent figure.
1979 is a political comedy. O’Brecht said its similarity to sketch comedy can be useful during times of political strife, comparing it to popular Canadian political commentary shows.
“Shows like Rick Mercer and 22 Minutes poke fun at politics, we are doing something similar,” she said.
O’Brecht said that her involvement in the play inspired a newfound political interest.
“It lit a bit of a political fire in my belly,” she said.
The play, while focusing on a past conservative government, takes no political stance on the left or right. It instead aims to examine history in a comedic light. O’Brecht hopes this will allow audiences to question their own political affiliations after leaving the theatre.
“I hope they come out of the play talking. I think that’s what art is supposed to do,” O’Brecht said.