- BC Games
Review: NDP leader Tommy Douglas cleverly depicted in John Nolan's bioplay
Actor John Nolan's reincarnation of Tommy Douglas is must viewing for all Canadians.
Especially those who naively ask "Who's Tommy Douglas?"
But once they get sick, old, or jobless, they might be interested to know Tommy gave us universal medicare — sadly now under attack by private care — unemployment insurance and our pension plans.
The feisty NDP leader was also premier of Saskatchewan, and later, Nanaimo-Cowichan's MP.
But Thursday's viewers put Tommy's accomplishments aside, and drank in Nolan's depiction of a common guy who fought hard for the average person overtaxed and underserved by bland bureaucracy.
Appropriately, his one-man play Tommy Douglas: The Arrows Of Desire opened with O Canada.
Tommy would have been proud — hockey games, not plays, start with our national anthem.
Why are Americans the patriotic ones?
Ex-boxer and Boy Scout Tommy aimed to fix that by creating new programs for Canucks by balancing budgets and cutting monetary waste.
What a concept given today's rash of corrupt, red-ink scandals afflicting Canada.
Nolan's Tommy — draped in a grey suit sporting a red poppy — wouldn't have been amused.
From Nolan's dialogue, his political hero would have taken a round out of his Parliamentary opponents for the sorry state of our country now.
Using a quiver of quotes from the the late Baptist preacher, Nolan hit a homer.
He also sang hymns and recited Tommy's favorite poems, depicting a witty man of vision — a self-styled "giant among pygmies."
Tommy also took pokes at the press that often sided with our fat-cat government — comically trapped in Tommy's Mouseland fable — reminding us the media's job is to question government and society.
Yes, Nolan's bioplay is fine fodder for like-minded folks tired of government stuck in neutral, and run by cats who make laws for themselves.
"Watch out for a fellow with an idea!" Tommy heckled of how things are, envisioning how they should be.
Despite being branded a Bolshevik by his detractors, Tommy fought on backed by Irma, "the loveliest and best wife a man could have."
Nolan effectively used lighting, offstage voices and simple sets — a kitchen table, a lectern, and a Parliamentary podium — to wage war ("violence only creates more violence, and even bigger problems "), against lacklustre leaders ("We gave the Mad Dog (Hitler) teeth"), and narrow thinking ("I refuse to have a battle of wits with an unarmed man").
Tommy also followed Kipling's notion that "words are the strongest drug used by man."
Indeed, inspiring youths to break cycles of controlling beliefs peddled by big business and government was another of Tommy's goals.
"Young people are the sacred arrows of our loftiest desires," Nolan's Tommy said.
Yes, his play was cleverly threaded with Tommy's quotes handpicked by Nolan for maximum impact about a simple man with a simple plan — undeterred by greed.
"The root of evil is the love of money," said Tommy.
It was also instructive having a question-and-answer session with Nolan at play's end.
Folks suggested health-care co-operatives, meaningful Parliamentary debate, and more while Nolan spoke of political and corporate agendas at the helm.
Ultimately, it was clear we need more leaders like Tommy to "get things back on track" as Nolan properly stated in his popular, timely work.
Tommy Douglas: The Arrows Of Desire runs Sept. 12 to 14 at 8 p.m. in the Mercury Theatre. Call 25--748-7529.
Biographical play rating: 9 slings out of 10.