- Judith Thompson Critical Perspectives on Canadian Theatre in English Volume 3
Playwrights Canada Press has always been an important and major player in the vibrant and varied theatrical landscape of Canada. With the beginning of a new series, Critical Perspectives on Canadian Theatre in English, Playwrights Canada Press not only celebrates the maturity and richness of the past and present critical heritage, but is also exceptionally timely. Playwrights began to emerge in the late 1960s, and now, forty years later, another substantial body, the critical responses, needs to be gathered to stand beside the shelves of published, single texts, collections, and anthologies. General editor Ric Knowles and publisher Angela Rebeiro are both to be congratulated with the creation of this new series.
Volume 3 of this series is Judith Thompson. In his introduction, Ric Knowles begins by positioning Thompson's work. The Crackwalker was first produced in 1980 with White Biting Dog following in 1984. Judith Thompson, however, is not about the playwright. It is about the critical responses to her work. It will as a consequence be an important resource in the classroom. Knowles brings togther articles that date back to 1988 from many different sources. In his introduction, Knowles also acknowledges what work is not here and, at times, he indicates how he made certain choices. This introduction effectively contextualizes the critical responses. The book closes with a section, 'Suggested Further Reading,' which is an extensive Thompson bibliography. [End Page 648]
What is striking in reading the assembled articles is the overall arching narrative that appears following the work of George Tole in 1988 and Robert C. Nunn in 1989, who in many ways provide the backdrop for subsequent critics. Tole on 'grace' and Nunn on Freud and Lacan provide a very useful entrance into Thompson's dramatic world. Both critics consider The Crackwalker, White Biting Dog, and I Am Yours, and, as one reads further into Judith Thompson, one is stuck by the extraordinary legacy these two articles leave. Toles in '"Cause You're the Only One I Want": The Anatomy of Love in the Plays of Judith Thompson' moves towards a psychoanalytical reading which many following critics would embrace and also introduces one crucial Thompson element, namely 'grace,' which too would be revisited. Nunn in 'Spatial Metaphor in the Plays of Judith Thompson' would be returned to again and again by later critics and is frequently quoted in the pages of Judith Thompson.
The next phase is characterized by different critics' approaches to Thompson's plays beginning with Julie Adam's 'Anti-Naturalism' and concluding in 2005 with Laura Levin's return to naturalism and Kim Solga's return in part to Tole and 'grace.' In between, critics consider the individual plays. Jen Harvey's feminist reading of Lion in the Streets is persuasive, as is Sherrill Grace's reading of Sled. In fact, Sled is considered here by Penny Farfan and, in part, by Claudia Barnett and Craig Walker. The two latter critics consider the 1997 playtext within a larger context; Walker returns to the concept of 'grace' while Barnett turns to ghosts. Thompson's most recent play, Capture Me, is considered by two critics who share a unique perspective. They both witnessed the workshop process of this text as graduate students and hence write almost as insiders, Dalbir Singh using postcolonialism to guide his approach and Robyn Read using Shildrick's considerations of the monstrous to focus hers. Editor Ric Knowles has brought together a thoughtful and provocative collection of essays. Debates in classroom and beyond can begin. Judith Thompson is a valuable resource.
Denise Lynde, Department of English, Memorial University