Our Lady of Mercy elementary school choir was rehearsing for its showcase at Expo 67 when something strange caught the ear of Sister Mary Catherine — something was off in the alto section.
“I desperately worked for her not to hear me . . . I knew I was that ‘something’ that was off,” says celebrated Canadian comedienne Mary Walsh.
Walsh was given the boot and didn’t get to fulfil her wish of going to the World’s Fair in Montreal in real life — but she does in her one-woman play, presented by Intrepid Theatre in Victoria for one night only. (The performance is a fundraiser to fit the theatre with air conditioning. At long last!)
Dancing With Rage follows Walsh’s iconic character Marg Delahunty (who often makes appearances on This Hour has 22 Minutes and even ran for the leadership of the federal Conservative party) on an epic trip to Montreal where the future battle-axe warrior princess gets knocked-up. Delahunty’s parents won’t let her keep the baby and she’s forced to offer it up for adoption without ever having held her newborn.
Fast forward a few decades and Delahunty is going blind from macular degeneration (something Walsh has been dealing with since 1996). “She’s determined to find and clap eyes on the youngster before she goes blind,” says Walsh.
Even though Delahunty’s mother suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, she tells her daughter her child might be living in Ottawa.
The warrior princess embarks on a quest to find her child, facing all sorts of obstacles along the way.
“It’s not fire breathing dragons, but it’s things like Air Canada and Rogers cellular,” says Walsh. “There is a dark period around the middle of the play when she thinks her lovechild is Stephen Harper,” says Walsh, a fiercely entertaining political critic. “Thanks be to God that it all works out and it’s not true.”
In the end, Delahunty comes to a realization. “You know that place we come to when we’re a certain age and we’ve been pushing and pushing against a door only to realize that all the time the door opened in,” says Walsh.
The secondary storyline follows a little girl who grew up next door to her real family.
Walsh wrote the play in 2011 and after an initial sold-out run at the Resource Centre for the Arts in St John’s, NFLD, she was forced to cancel a three-week run at Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto after falling ill with pneumonia. She found herself in hospital again after being struck by a cyclist as she dismounted a street car in downtown Toronto.
Dancing with Rage played Feb. 5-17 at Vancouver’s Firehall Arts Centre and will be touring to Edmonton, Toronto and Halifax before she lands back home in Newfoundland.
And even though the play’s title sounds a little bleak, Walsh says it’s a comedy.
“It’s not like This Hour at all,” says Walsh. “It’s a play, but there is some political comedy, it’s part of my life … all comedy is anger based anyways even though we don’t talk about that. I think that what it’s about is coming through anger, and coming out the other side.” M
Dancing With Rage
Tues., Feb. 19, 8pm
$100 (with $50 tax receipt)