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Reviewed by:
  • Feminist Theatre and Performance, and: The Masks of Judith Thompson, and: George F. Walker, and: Theatre in British Columbia
  • Nancy Copeland
Susan Bennett , editor. Feminist Theatre and Performance. Playwrights Canada. xvii, 161. $25.00
Ric Knowles , editor. The Masks of Judith Thompson. Playwrights Canada. xi. 149. $25.00
Harry Lane , editor. George F. Walker. Playwrights Canada. xv, 205. $25.00
Ginny Ratsoy , editor. Theatre in British Columbia. Playwrights Canada. xxii, 228. $25.00

Taken together, these four anthologies from Playwrights Canada Press represent a range of approaches to configuring drama scholarship. Three of the four are volumes in the ongoing series Critical Perspectives on Canadian Theatre in English, while the fourth, The Masks of Judith Thompson, is a companion to an earlier Critical Perspectives volume dedicated to Thompson's work.

George F. Walker, edited by Harry Lane, like the other Critical Perspectives volumes, is intended to complement collections of plays issued by various Canadian publishers, in this case the anthologies of Walker's work published by Talonbooks, in order, according to the series' general editor, Ric Knowles, to 'facilitate the teaching of Canadian drama and theatre.' Lane's anthology combines scholarship on Walker's work extending from 1978 to 2006 with three interviews with the playwright at different stages of his career. In keeping with the series' approach, most of the material is reprinted, although two of the pieces are published for the first time, including a commissioned article on This Is Wonderland, by Amanda McCoy. The collection begins with some of the earliest critical assessments of Walker's work: Ken Gass's introduction to Walker's Three Plays of 1978 and Chris Johnson's influential 'George F. Walker: B-Movies beyond the Absurd,' first published in 1980. The subsequent articles provide comprehensive coverage of the stages of Walker's career, including a substantial body of criticism of the work prior to the East End Plays, up to his most recent work, Heaven and This Is Wonderland. The articles demonstrate the extensive body of serious critical commentary on Walker, including the work of such prominent critics as Robert Wallace, Ric Knowles, Reid Gilbert, Jerry Wasserman, Denis W. Johnston, and Craig Stewart Walker, and document the gradual articulation of Walker's post-modernism and, more recently, his post-colonialism. These essays also represent a range of theoretical approaches, including Knowles's influential analysis of Walker's 'dramaturgy of the perverse' from The Theatre of Form and the Production of Meaning, Gilbert's Lacanian post-colonial analysis of two of the Suburban [End Page 422] Motel plays, and Ed Nyman's queer reading of Theatre of the Film Noir. Surprisingly absent, however, is any reference to the casting, which was such an important feature of Walker's early work, notably the contributions of Walker 'regulars' David Bolt and Peter Blais. Only D.A Hadfield contributes performance criticism to this collection, and her focus is on characters in The Power Plays who do not appear in the cast lists. This absence is, presumably, a shortcoming of the available criticism, rather than of the selection process. Lane's collection simultaneously provides a rich and stimulating overview of Walker's work and in-depth analyses of individual plays.

Ginny Ratsoy's Theatre in British Columbia, intended as a companion to Playing the Pacific Province: An Anthology of British Columbia Plays, 1967–2000, which she edited with James Hoffman, is at the opposite pole from George F. Walker's focus on an individual playwright. Ratsoy has interpreted her subject broadly, producing an anthology that encompasses many different sub-topics. The articles are arranged chronologically, from 1983 to 2006, but in her introduction Ratsoy identifies alternative groupings: 'broad views,' 'theatre companies,' specific play-wrights and plays, and 'specific communities perform themselves.' Malcolm Page and Denis Johnston give overviews of theatre in the province; Renate Usmiani writes about Tamahnous Theatre and Savage God in the 1960s and 1970s and Bruce Kirkley about Caravan Farm Theatre; Uma Parameswaran writes about South Asian theatre and Sibohan R.K. Barker about Black playwrights; David Diamond gives a 'historical overview' of Headlines Theatre; Margo Kane and R.A. Shiomi write about their experiences as theatre practitioners from 'specific communities'; James...


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