The last original London play of 2002 — James Reaney’s The Story of the Gentle Rain Food Co-op — is just about to finish its run, so it’s a good time to take stock of this year’s premieres. I counted 34 new plays in total, which has to be unprecedented in the history of home-grown London theatre.
Of the 24 London playwrights produced in 2002, Jayson McDonald continued to be the most prolific, with one full-length play and five one-acts. The Deluxe Illustrated Body, co-written with Lil Malinich “set the standard for the alternative theatre scene in London for 2002” according to theatre critic Christopher Doty (theatreinlondon.ca). It was revived in the fall by Port Stanley Festival Theatre. Mr. McDonald also wrote two plays for younger actors: Ghosts of Sleepy Hollow and Microscopic Men, two Fringe shows: Frank Shoe: Private Dick and Mercury and a solo show: 13 Love Stories.
He also continued to write The Boneyard Man, introduced a weekly live soap opera called The Tower and co-wrote several shows with the sketch comedy troupe Fully Insured. So as a writer, Mr. McDonald is in full tilt boogie mode.
Jason Rip has also been known to crank them out, but he has taken a more relaxed approach recently. In 2002, Aloha Rodeo, co-written with Jeff Werkmeister premiered and StudiO K presented three of his shorter pieces as The Rip Fest.
Caitlin Murphy added The Chance of Rain and post- to her repertoire this year. She continues to explore new themes and styles with every new script. An earlier work, A is for Everything was picked up by an Irish company for runs in Wexford and Dublin this past summer.
Peter Desbarats came onto the scene with a bang with Her Worship, pricking up the ears of Londoners with the news that he had written a play about politics and religion, inspired by former mayor Diane Haskett’s first term in office.
Claire McCague, a graduate student at Western, is another prolific writer, with three new productions in 2002: Intersection, Mettle and Still, a stage adaptation of the story by b.p. nichol; Rod Keith added two full-length plays to his 70s cop-show parody series, Chelsea and Boggs; Jonathan de Souza solidified his reputation as one to watch with My Name is Mr. Jones; and Joan Johnston wrote and directed her fifth play in six years for a seniors’ troupe — the I Don’t Remember Drama Group.
For the full list of playwrights who made contributions in 2002, visit www.theatreinlomdon.ca and look under “Plays from London”. At the end of the year, Christopher Doty will be selecting his top picks of the bunch, so keep an eye out for that.
Much of this new writing is the direct result of the creation of no less than three new theatre festivals in the past five years: The London One-Act Festival (1999), The London Fringe Festival (2000) and Purple Shorts (2002).
It’s been a great year — congratulations to the production crews and the actors, and especially to the playwrights themselves.