Theatre review: The New Canadian Curling Club

Dangerous slippery surfaces, cold air, and distinctly pale participants make for a pretty hostile environment for a newcomer. So, when playwright Mark Crawford chose the very Canadian institution of curling, he was setting us up for a delightful romp, and, at times, some blunt reminders of the challenges facing immigrants.

The New Canadian Curling Club
By Mark Crawford
January 23 to February 1 | Sagebrush Theatre, Kamloops
February 4 | Performing Arts Centre, Vernon

The New Canadian Curling Club reveals how racism denies us the pleasure of knowing new people.

When we first meet the team, we know there’s going to be trouble. Stuart MacPhail, a more subtly nuanced version of Archie Bunker, played brilliantly by Guy Bannerman, expresses the attitudes and filterless expressions of older white Canadians. MacPhail is presence is not by choice; a substitute coach, he received a few extra dollars to help turn a motley crew of newcomers into a curling team.

Charmaine Bailey, played by Jenni Burke like someone who lived her part, immediately clashes with McPhail, almost leading a mutiny on the first day! Mike Chang (Richard Lam) has the problematic role of the straight man and suitor seeking approval. Lam creates an excellent contrast to the side-splitting comedy of Anoopjeet Singh (Richard Young). Young also shares what it was like to earn less than a living wage and raise a family.

Fatima Al-Seyed, played with understated intelligence by Parmida Vand, showed the heartache of the Syrian crisis plus the fear of her strict father. Add to this her limited English and Fatima has a struggle on many fronts. Despite her serious role, Vand offers some of the best laughs in the show. Which reminds me, there is no star. I watched a great ensemble of equally essential characters telling an extraordinary story with some brilliant humour built-in. 

The production values in this show are also excellent as soon as you sit down, you get transported to every curling rink in Canada. The ice surface was a principal silent performer providing several laughs as novice curlers tried to look dignified stepping out on to the ice and failing hilariously. The challenging surface was well used by the actors who made us believe they were on ice.  

Steve Lucas who designed the set, also did an admirable job on the lighting, capturing the feel of the rink and making the blue and red of the ‘ice’ surface pop. Verne Good’s sound design deserves mention for the excellent rink rowdiness punctuating the essential parts of the performance. Costumes by Victoria Wallace added to the realism. I especially liked MacPhail’s sweaters which screamed everyman in Canada over 50.

The New Canadian Curling Club is an excellent production that leaves audiences smiling over the recollection of comic bits and, for some of us, counting blessings.