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370 LETTERS IN CANADA 1982 En somme 1982 aura ete une annee riche, revelatrice d'un mouvement d'ensemble de retour au lisible mais ce sans mot d'ordre absolu, sans manifeste peremptoire. Peut-etre Ie temps des manifestes a-t-il cede Ie pas II celui des essais? (v.e.g. Fran~ois Charron, Lilteralure el nationalisme au Pierre Vadeboncceur, Essai sur l'insignifiance). Les lauriers ne sont jamais coupes dans Ie champ de l'ecriture et Ie cyclique en definitive I'emporte sur Ie lineaire. Drama JOHN H. ASTINGTO N The year's published drama is set in an interesting perspective by an anthology of interviews with dramatists and directors: The Work. Conversations with English-Canadian Playwrights (Coach House Press, 384, $9,95 paper), edited by Robert Wallace and Cynthia Zimmerman. The interview is a standard feature of modem literary culture, and while it may not always be particularly informative about the writer's work, as distinct from his or her personal predilections and opinions, this collection manages both to be lively and to suggest some general issues of concern to the twenty-six artists represented. One which clearly was on the minds of the interviewers and which becomes something of a leitmotiv in their questions is that of naturalism in dramatic style, or in Canadian writing more generally, and the flight from it, in one guise or another, in the writing of the last fifteen years. Some of the dramatists tend to see their work in precisely this context. George Walker speaks of the reluctance of theatre managements to produce his plays 'because the work's not naturalistic, not what they are used to seeing from most Canadian playwrights .' Torn Hendry, remembering the founding of Toronto Free Theatre in 1971, was 'bored, frankly, with naturalistic work and ... looking for something else.' Martin Kinch claims that 'a basic aesthetic choice ... has been made throughout the country, a choice not only for Naturalism but for a kind of home-spun vision of ourselves. It's not the edgy urban Naturalism of a lot of current German theatre. It's a kind of homespun, soft-focus, mythological nostalgia.' The qualifications Kinch makes allow us to see that 'naturalism' is not necessarily being used in a very precise way: it is a boo-word, meant to sum up a kind of taste against which certain dramatists, but by no means all, see themselves ranged. My favourite response to the recurrent question is Rex Deverell's: 'I don't really understand what Naturalism is I guess.' The fact is that naturalism loul court is not and has not been a partic- DRAMA 371 ularly favoured style in Canadian dramatic writing, whether one looks at literary history or current writing. There isn't one among the plays published in 1982 that I would comfortably characterize as naturalistic. Far more frequent are stylization, selection, or exaggeration; the common domestic theme or that of settlement on the land more often than not reveals a symbolicor mytholOgical intention. Simplification and theatrical naivete are apparent in the musical play or ballad legend, a tradition rather older than the collective documentaries of the last fifteen years, and there is a constant concern with the story, or with the yarn, on another level, which reveals a taste for shaping event and especially for closing the action, all quite out of key with naturalism. To take a particular example, Betty Lambert's Jennie's Story (Playwrights Canada, 73, $3.50 paper) reveals through its title a good part of its dramatic intent: it is the particular past circumstances ofJennie's life, which lead in due course to her suicide, on which the reader or audience focuses attention. Quite traditionally, the secret of the past will unlock the present. The play creates strong sympathy for the title character, purely in terms of circumstance , as the innocent victim sterilized against her will and without her consent, and also through the stunned anger of her reaction as she tries to corne to terms with her knowledge, but it is a sympathy which arises from no small degree of fictional contrivance - the story of her seduction by the priest is quite Gothic in its...


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