Choreography and athletic artistry come together in Glory at the Chemainus Theatre until Oct. 9. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Review: Stellar performances highlight play destined to become Canadian classic

Chemainus Theatre’s ‘Glory’ deserves a bigger audience

Get your tickets to the Chemainus Theatre Festival production of Glory: I dare you.

The theatre continues to find its groove again after a two-year COVID layoff with their best show to date this year in Glory, written by Tracey Power.

The small five-person cast performed to a relatively sparse crowd on opening night Friday, Sept. 16, but this show deserves a much bigger audience, as the enthusiastic standing ovation at the end indicated.

Glory is destined to be a Canadian classic that I predict will still be performed decades from now, alongside other pieces of beloved Canadiana.

The script is based on the powerful true story of the Preston Rivulettes, a legendary women’s ice hockey team that won four Dominion (Canadian) Championships and 10 Ontario titles between 1931 and 1940.

It’s everything and nothing that you thought women’s hockey would be all those decades ago. It’s a story of daring: daring to be different, daring to break down barriers, daring to step outside of what women were supposed to be during that era.

It’s fitting that the phrase “I dare you” repeats throughout this complex and beautiful script, with the characters uttering it to drive the action and each other in wholly unexpected directions.

The text gives us a window into four of the players: Helen Schmuck, played by Kate Dion-Richard, Marm (Margaret) Schmuck, played by Becky Frohlinger, Hilda Ranscombe, played by Emma Rendell, and Nellie Ranscombe, played by Morgan Yamada.

What makes it so successful is that each of the characters is equally well developed, with a compelling storyline and plenty of meat for the actors to sink their dramatic teeth into.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not all sturm and drang. There is a lot of humour and warmth along with the emotional punch, leaving the audience feeling as if these women are old friends.

This is helped by the four powerhouse performances given by the actors in this perfectly cast ensemble.

Seldom have I seen a cast so well-matched in their level of skill and each performance is superb under the able direction of James MacDonald.

Brian Linds as coach Herb Fach rounds out the stellar cast, hitting all the right notes.

But how does one stage hockey?

Through careful choreography that brings the dynamics of an ice hockey game from the rink to the stage. Choreographer Tracey Power has managed to perfectly capture the feeling of being on the ice and the cut and thrust of the game with a sort of stylized dance. Emma Rendell in particular manages to capture the feeling of skating through her movements.

It’s helped along by the piping in of a hockey play-by-play announcer, which not only serves the purpose of enunciating how the play is proceeding, but also doesn’t let the audience forget that we’ve been transported to a time period before women were taken seriously in many professions, perhaps especially sports.

This and the addition of intermittent radio broadcasts demonstrate the casual sexism and racism of the time which is beautifully juxtaposed by the down-to-earth portrayals of the women, who are clearly nobody’s “dolls” that are too fragile for the game.

It also brings in a foreboding element that runs subtly through the play — this is the runup to the Second World War, after all.

Also worth high praise is an incredible set design by Narda McCarroll that takes us right into a cavernous rink, the dressing room, the shoe factory, and even a train. The ingenuity of it impressive.

Glory is a daringly unflinching look at four women, a game, and a time in Canadian history that has shaped out present.

I dare you to think Canadian history is boring after seeing this show.

Book your tickets at chemainustheatre.ca or by calling 250-246-9820. Do it fast: this show is only on until Oct. 9 and you don’t want to miss is.

Arts and cultureArts and EntertainmentLive theatre