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478 LETTERS IN CANADA 1982 regarded their country and its future.' What he demonstrates is that a group of men of varying occupations have felt and still feel that Canadian life contains some hope for serving as a refuge from the fullest extension of the technocratic state. The author is bold or naive enough to include working politicians (the absence of Flora MacDonald, who would have broken up the locker-room unisexuality of the book, perplexes me) among his exponents, which asserts a more robust view of the possibilities of public discourse than commentators generally acknowledge. However superficial Radical Tories may appear to a critical audience, it offers an accessible introduction to its subjects' way of viewing Canada. (DENNIS DUFFY) John Orrell. Fallen Empires: The Lost Theatres of Edmonton, 1881-1914 NeWest Press 1981. 141, illus. $13·95; $6.95 paper As a civic theatre history, Fallen Empires is a hodgepodge, although useful for the source material it furnishes. John Orrell gathers together newspaper items and architectural descriptions to chart the evolution in Edmonton from early meeting-hall to movie palace. But, with the exception of the penultimate chapter six ('Two Golden Seasons: 1912 to 1914'), we get only a smattering of the theatrical activity that went on inside the buildings. Fallen Empires is a short but tangled tale of edifices going up and burning down, or being renamed. There were three Empires, for instance , giving rise to the book's apt title. Orrell's interests seem predominantly architectural. He is expansive about the structural details of the various rustic playhouses and, in addition to a handful of archival playbills and photographs, he also supplies a series of his own fine linedrawings of several fa~ades. But for a study of pioneer theatre and its architecture, the literary structure is surprisingly limp and colourless. The author does not hit his stride until the third chapter and then only by borrowing upon material previously developed in a magazine article. However, by chapter five he gives a clear and well-organized account of the theatres of Strathcona (South Edmonton). Still, overall, there is little historical perspective provided in which to evaluate the growth, and an absolute dearth of anecdote and incident. I longed for another event like Tom Marks's 'potato matinee' (p 85), or some elaboration on the night a drama about 'a kind-hearted safe-cracker' was played at the local penitentiary (p 95). We need spaces between the calendar listing of viSiting attractions and the prosaic documentation in order to catch our breath, and savour the progression of time. The early chapters are especially disappointing: sketchy in their narrative , awkward in their paragraphing, and shallow in their research. It is embarrassing when a book purporting to be about our theatre history fails to recognize and identify a veritable parade of Canadian entertainers. The frontier theatre in Edmonton was sustained by such Canadian companies as those of Harold Nelson, George Summers, and Tom Marks, which the author fails to differentiate from their American counterparts. Other names glide by without proper recognition for their Canadian contribution: the director-teacher Sterndale Bennett; the expatriate Canadian star McKee Rankin; and the dramatic critic Augustus Bridle, for example. And the earliest 'itinerant profeSSional,' Simcoe Lee (pp 4- 5), was a former juvenile with John Nickinson's Royal Lyceum troupe in Toronto and a writer of indigenous farces (Fiddle, Faddle and Foozle in 1853). Even more damning, we miss the fact that Simcoe Lee inaugurated the 'Pink Eye Club' at Fort Edmonton in June 1884, an early manifestation of Prairie theatres. We applaud John Orrell's Preface statement that we need a cooperative network of regional stage histories to make possible the comparative study of Western circuits (and presumably the movement of theatre personnel across the country). But we have a right now to expect our pioneering theatre historians to do more homework and take greater care in writing their accounts than this. (DAVID GARDNER) Oaude Bissell. The Young Vincent Massey University of Toronto Press 1981. xxxiv, 270. $22.50 Claude Bissell has written a very interesting and informative biographical study of Vincent Massey's life and career from birth to 1935 - the point at...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 478-479
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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