By Resby Coutts, Chair – Curling Canada Board of Governors
The Blyth Theatre Festival’s new Canadian play, The New Canadian Curling Club, is right on the button!
I didn’t know what to expect when my wife and I included Blyth Festival’s new play in our annual summer visit to Ontario to enjoy the offerings of Stratford and Shaw Festivals.
What we found in our first visit to Blyth was great comedy entertainment within the story of four new Canadians trying to learn to curl as metaphor for the challenges they face in being welcomed in this country.
As a “curling guy”, I appreciated the story at its simplest level – it asks us as curlers to think about how welcoming we are to newcomers to our ‘club’’ and it is fair to say that question applies whether it is a newcomer to our country or just a newcomer to the community. More important is the question that lies just below the show’s pebbled surface – the much more important question of how we, as Canadians, welcome people who are different from us.
To a curler the story line has great potential although that may not be quite as obvious to others. You’ve seen it in the show’s publicity. The local Rec-Director organizes a ‘learn-to-curl’ program for immigrants – just enough sign up to form a team – former champion curler Stuart (now the icemaker) who’s attitude ranges from not-welcoming to outright racism, is told it is his job to teach them to curl.
Along the way we learned the back-story which tells us why Stuart hasn’t thrown a rock in 20 years and has become a bitter old man in those years. We also learned about the day to day challenges faced by the four individuals from four completely different backgrounds and that they are more than just ‘the new Canadians’ – they are four people with four completely different sets of challenges in their daily lives. The very diverse cast provides the visible suggestion that the cast members have experienced these very challenges.
As the very entertaining show unfolded we began to care about Stuart’s redemption as a person (and as a curler) and about the lives of each of the four players. Inevitably we also began to care about the team’s attempt to compete for the club’s most storied trophy, the Highlander Cup, just eight weeks after stepping on the curling ice for the first time.
MY wife and I were suitably impressed with Blyth’s refurbished, and very comfortable, Community Hall with its stage set up as the ice surface of the local curling rink. The regular scene change to the club’s upstairs lounge is an obvious one but easily handled. We were also impressed as the simple but effective staging moved the story week-by-week through the training sessions and through the opening game of the bonspiel to an inspiring conclusion.
Congratulations to Blyth Theatre Festival, to the cast, to the crew, and to all of your volunteers. The New Canadian Curling Club truly is right on the button!
Photo cutline: Actors Parmida Vand, Marcia Johnson and Matthew Gin pose with Resby Coutts after the performance of The New Canadian Curling Club.