John Murrell is acknowledged as one of Canada's most literate and technically accomplished playwrights. He has turned out some excellent translations and adaptations of opera and theatrical classics, as well as writing several complex and fascinating, historically-based, plays.
In New World, written in 1986 and now being restaged at Toronto's Tarragon Theatre as of Nov. 11, Murrell tried something a bit different, choosing as his setting a beach on Vancouver Island and dealing with contemporary issues and concerns. It is one of his lesser known works, despite a well received premiere production directed by Robin Phillips.
The plot revolves around an internationally renowned photographer who hails from England originally. He has built himself a home on China Beach and been recently joined by his sister and another immigrant sibling, Larry. Visiting for the day are also a couple of Americans and a French Canadian. Their time together pushes everyone's boundaries, both externally and internally.
Although a comedy, New World is brittle and disturbing, with ironic allusion to Shakespeare's The Tempest.
The Tarragon production is directed by Colin Taylor.It features Diana Leblanc, a director in her own right.Leblanc's onstage contributions have been limited by her steady work at the Stratford Festival (this summer: Romeo and Juliet. Any opportunity to see her on the other side of the footlights is always welcome. Tarragon: 416-531-1827.
-- By Mira Friedlander