Reviews

"...a body of work recognized as a Canadian cultural treasure."   

                                                                              -Toronto Sun

Brenda Bazinet and Jerry Franken, Blyth Festival, Leaving Home

  For LEAVING HOME: "A play of remarkable, dynamic life...the lacerating quality of inter-family warfare carries both superb comedy and powerful emotional force...an overwhelming dramatic experience."     -Toronto Star "Solidly-fashioned powerful emotional drama...all of its characters have the quality of theatrical life...all prove worthy of our attention, understanding, and laughter."            -Globe & Mail "David French’s 1972 masterpiece Leaving Home...is a landmark of Canadian theatre. The play is so moving and so powerful that it is practically indestructible."  - 96.3FM "Immensely moving...universal."         -Washington Post   For OF THE FIELDS, LATELY: "An agonizingly beautiful work."         -New York Post "Line by line, scene by scene, Of The Fields, Lately is above reproach."     -New York Times "French's extraordinary inner ear responds once again to heartbeat shifts in emotion and perception, and his lovely sense of comedy controls the contradictions of human nature."          -Toronto Star "A searing emotional rollercoaster for both the characters and the audience."    -96.3 FM "It's a beautiful work filled with homespun dialogue, rich with humour and characters that feel warm and real…If only Canadian theatre was always this poignant, stirring and compelling."  –Toronto Star (2009)

"David French's five-play cycle about the Mercer family of Newfoundland is one of the central works of our theatre...Each play has a different tone and features varied stylized touches, but they all radiate with the same deep and profound humanity..."   

                                                                                                  -Toronto Star

Richard Clarkin and Denise Naples, Tarragon Theatre, Salt-Water Moon

  For SALT-WATER MOON: Salt-Water Moon is "a gem of a play, an old-fashioned love song that is affecting, funny, and evocative as a dream."      -Globe & Mail "This is a lovely play, lovingly written. We've not met the likes of Mary and Jacob on any stage in many a long day. You'll not soon forget them."       -Hollywood Drama-Logue "Small-scaled and delicate, Salt-Water Moon is a radiant affirmation of the gifts French exhibited in his earlier plays. Spare, lyrical and tightly constructed, there's nothing in it that isn't essential, yet the images the writer conjures up stay in the mind long after the play is finished. It's a long time since Canadian theatre has been graced by a play as well written as this one."     -Ottawa Citizen "David French has created an old-fashioned love song that fills Toronto's Tarragon Theatre with tough talk and tender feeling."     -Maclean's magazine "Salt-Water Moon shines."      -Philadelphia  Daily News "French has packed his script with plenty of emotion and an almost poetic lilt that makes it fairly pulse with the humours and disappointments of young love." –Toronto Sun "Tender as a caress, delicate as a love poem…tremendous!”  -Southam News  

Click here to read a Toronto Star article titled "Mercer Trilogy Could Teach World About Canada".

  For 1949: "With the love French bears his characters, and the humour, poignancy, and insight that grace every scene, 1949 stands squarely in the rich tradition of world literature -- Chekhov springs to mind -- that maps the intricate joys and torment of the human soul."       -Metropolis "Written on an epic scale with an epic theme...The stories are told with French's warm humour and effortless command of stage convention."       -Globe & Mail "Hilarious."      -Winnipeg Free Press "A glorious romp of Newfoundland humour and pathos."       -Montreal Gazette  

"When it comes to playwriting, David French is...the most celebrated in English Canada."     -Globe & Mail

 
Kevin Bundy, Oliver Dennis, Geordie Johnson, and Diane D'Aquila in the Soulpepper production of Jitters

Kevin Bundy, Oliver Dennis, Geordie Johnson, and Diane D'Aquila in the Soulpepper production of Jitters

        JITTERS: "Jitters is witty, affectionate, bitchy, bitterly touching. French handles a complicated idea with great sophistication."     -Toronto Star "Jitters is the happiest case of stage fright I have ever encountered."      -New York Post "After the opening of 'The Care and Treatment of Roses,' a review is read aloud to the company and it is a dead-on spoof of an attitudinizing critic. He calls the play 'a seamless fabric of passion and redeemed hope.' The author wonders why the critic hedged at all. Why didn't he come right out and say the play was perfect? With that review in mind, I will hedge a little. Jitters is an almost perfect comedy of its kind."       -New York Times "David French’s hilarious backstage drama Jitters is a comedic masterpiece... the laughter builds and builds to a rippling series of rib-aching crescendos."    -Toronto Star (2010)   For THAT SUMMER: “The quiet sense of wonder, of bygone innocence conveyed through this lovely play is as refreshing as a summer storm after a heat wave.”      -The Kitchener-Waterloo Record “A lyrical and beautifully constructed meditation on the passage of time… David French is a playwright at the height of his powers.”       - Canadian Book Review Annual 2000  

"David's plays are like icebergs off Newfoundland, always interesting on the surface, but it is the vast humanity beneath that powers the plays -- the humour, the despair, the absurdity, the vulnerability, the aggression, and always, deep in the centre, his heart."   -R.H. Thomson, actor and director

  For ONE CRACK OUT: "One Crack Out is a large-boned, daring work, reflecting an astute craftsmanship...the results are almost explosively stirring."       -Toronto Star "French's glimpse of life in one Canadian underworld is funny, vigorous, and highly theatrical."     -Globe & Mail   For THE RIDDLE OF THE WORLD: "Sharp, funny...reaches the level of some of Shaw's better work."       -CBC Radio

Albert Schultz on David French's writing and place in theatre history

Albert Schultz, Artistic Director of Soulpepper Theatre, wrote a foreword for Anansi's beautiful Three Mercer Plays collection, published in 2009.  Albert has kindly given me permission to quote part of this essay here. "...(Leaving Home was) a colossal hit, cementing not only French's reputation, but (Bill) Glassco's and the Tarragon Theatre's.  The play had toured across the country, and due to its popularity French had written the 1973 follow-up Of The Fields, Lately, which would have equal success.  A decade later the love-soaked prequel Salt-Water Moon would mark the third installment of the Mercer family saga.  These three plays, plus the subsequent 1949 and Soldier's Heart ...would collectively make up what a recent Toronto Star poll called the most important contribution to English Canadian drama of the twentieth century. There is a great tradition in modern North American theatre of thinly disguised autobiography serving as fertile dramatic soil.  Think of the Wingfields of Tennessee Williams and the Tyrones of Eugene O'Neill.  The Mercer family saga belongs on the top shelf with these plays.  French uses memory with the same skill and poignancy that Williams does in The Glass Menagerie; he uses confession and forgiveness with the same devastating catharsis that O'Neill employs in A Long Day's Journey Into Night; but most remarkably he makes us laugh constantly, opening up our emotional capillaries to absorb and calm the pain.  On every page of each play in this volume is love and the writer's heartbreaking need to communicate that love to the ghosts of his youth.  In this way French is commended not as much for the characters he "creates" as for his ability to observe humanity with a complex and generous compassion.  He reminds us of his hero Anton Chekhov, and it is no accident that French's English version of The Seagull is considered by many to be unsurpassed. While French's characters are richly drawn and a delight to play, it is his notion of place that sets him apart.  French came to Toronto with his family from Newfoundland when he was six years old and he has lived here ever since, yet his plays are saturated with the geography and culture of his birthplace.  At first blush French seems to us a Newfoundland writer.  But his plays -- certainly the Mercer plays -- thrive on a tension between "here" and "there."  The tension is between the urban and the rural, the haves and the have-nots, Central Canada and Maritime Canada.  If the plays are set in Toronto (Leaving Home and Of The Fields, Lately) the "there" of Newfoundland is omnipresent -- its glories and its shortcomings.  In the Newfoundland of Salt-Water Moon, Toronto is ever-present as possibility and as threat.  This duality makes French so resonant to his audiences of urban Canadians, all of whom, in their own way, share this geographical ambiguity.  It is this that makes David French not only a great Newfoundland playwright but a great Canadian playwright." To listen to a CBC Radio interview of Albert Schulz talking about David, click here.

   

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