Take Me Home
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Take Me Home

HomechildTitle.jpegLast night we attended the opening of Joan MacLeod’s highly anticipated (by us, anyway) new play Homechild, CanStage’s first production of 2006. The title refers to the thousands of children who were sent from Scotland to work on Canadian farms between 1868 and 1930 – they were known as “home children”, and it is thought that a good tenth of today’s Canadian population is made up of their descendents. But MacLeod’s play isn’t a sweeping historical overview – on the contrary, the action is set in the present day (or five years ago at most – it’s a little unclear), and follows the usual tropes of Canadian drama. Lorna (Brenda Robins) returns to the family farm in Cornwall, Ontario for the first time in years (she’s been living in Toronto, of course – semiotically the city of soulless single mothers who have betrayed their heritage). Her father Alistair (the excellent Eric Peterson), was a home child, and has always refused to talk about his miserable childhood. He suffers a stroke during Lorna’s visit, and she learns from his stroke-induced rantings that he had a younger sister, Katie, back in Scotland. Lorna, thrilled by this accidental revelation from her normally taciturn father, determines to track down her long lost aunt.
MacLeod has an immense talent for developing characters and narratives through monologues, which is why The Hope Slide and Shape of a Girl are such stellar pieces of work. Whenever a character in Homechild has a monologue, the play is great. Unfortunately, her ability to do the same through dialogue appears to be less developed, and there are several scenes, particularly in the first act, where Homechild falls flat, though part of the blame for this must fall to the actors. The second act, thankfully, is much stronger, and immensely moving. Eric Peterson gives such a complex and heartbreaking performance that any of the play’s other flaws are rendered inconsequential. Take tissues, and don’t wear mascara.
Homechild runs to January 28th at the Bluma Appel Theatre.