Play review: Belle Moral

We went to the theatre last weekend. Since drama is one of Tigger’s interest areas, I decided at the beginning of the school year (such as it is) that we should go to the theatre more often. This is not as easy as it sounds when you are taking an 11 year old. Most of the “family” theatre is aimed at much younger children. But the regular program is not always interesting or appropriate for someone her age. Thus I didn’t by a subscription but picked a couple that looked interesting.

One of these was Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Belle Moral: A Natural History. Mat decided to go to a workshop on Orchard and Small Fruit Production and Marketting that day, so I also took one of her friends (who is 13 and also into drama). The girls both loved it.

This is not light entertainment. There is a lot going on. I was thinking that it was a good thing we’ve been studying 19th century British history because a lot of that knowledge came in handy. I also had to explain a few things about Oscar Wilde, and late 19th century ideas about mental illness and physical features. I suspect that most 11-13 year olds would not be as thrilled as these to young intellectuals were.

But all of you interested in Darwin, the history of scientific thought, and the relative importance of art and science in guiding moral behaviour will love it. Lots of food for thought. And what I thought was an interesting ending, verging on the post-modern.

Belle Moral is also funny. As MacDonald says in the author’s note in the program

I’m essentially a comedian. Which is to say, an informed, jaded, jaundiced, optimist. There may be unhappy endings to stories, but all stories are happy, because as long as there are stories, there is hope.

And lots of references to other work for those who have read a lot and can get them. I would love someone to relieve me of my frustration at placing the reference to the madwoman in the attic, for example. And I’m sure I missed loads. I’ve had a quick skim of the Study Guide (PDF) and it looks like it provides a lot of relevant background.

There is so much going on in this play that I think it is one that will stand the test of time. It deals with big important themes. And it bears repeated viewings. I am seriously contemplating buying a copy of the script.

This run ends on Saturday. It has had 2 runs at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake (2005, 2008). Hopefully, it will come around again there. If you ever see it somewhere near you, I would recommend attending.


One thought on “Play review: Belle Moral

  1. I’ve never read or seen this play, so thank you for introducing it to me. Sounds like a great experience for your daughter and her friend. Jane Eyre came to mind when you mentioned the crazy woman in the attic, but that’s all I have to offer!


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