Last night I took my family to the Canadian Stage presentation of "Proud", Michael Healey's humourously dramatic look at the goings on in the PMO after the 2011 federal elections. In this "fictional" work, Harper has scored an overwhelming majority, sweeping all the Quebec seats that went to the NDP in the real election, and turning the House of Commons into the Blue Room. What intrigued me about the play initially, other than I hoped it would skewer Harper on a satiric sword, was the fact that the Tarragon Theatre had dropped the production in the spring under fear that the Conservative government would withdraw funding from any group that staged a play of which the government might disapprove.
Thanks to some summer protest readings of the original sceenplay by various artists, and the courage of the Canadian Stage company, the play is proudly running at the Berkely Street Theatre in Toronto until the end of this week, but hurry – our performance last night was a sold-out packed house. And I thoroughly enjoyed the play except for one detail noted by my teenage son.When the play was over and the standing ovation had settled down, my son turned to me and said, "Wow, this actually makes Stephen Harper seem human. He even likes 'mother freakin' hash browns!' "
Indeed, I have to applaud Healey on achieving his goal of not demonizing the PM. While the satiric humour is definitely at the expense of Harper's foibles and personality, or lack thereof, he is presented in an often sympathic light of being a "suit stuffed with mashed potatoes" who has simple beliefs and goals – just a guy doing a job the best way he knows how.
On the other hand, the barbs were well delivered, from the PM petulantly getting his chief of staff to move MPs who may have offended him out of his line-of-sight in the House of Commons, to the slight-of-hand tricks used to get the Canadian public chasing sideline "issues" while the PMO quietly pursues its agenda. Harper is portrayed as a man who doesn't care about much, not even Israel, and issues like Afghanistan, abortion, the gun registry, the long form census, overpriced planes and bad beef are only smokescreens that allow him to pursue the simplest of goals that only a conservative accountant could appreciate – but that revelation would be a climactic spoiler.
The PM is even portrayed as a man capable of being seduced by a single-mom rookie MP, who cleverly convinces him to have gratuitous sex with her by getting him to think about other meaningless things – like the United Nations. All the characters, the PM, the chief of staff, the new MP and her past to future son are perfectly played by a talented cast. The play was thoroughly enjoyed by my family, although I will have to caution my son on quoting the many F-bombs that were delivered. And we will be making those latkes tonight …
Skid Crease, Caledon