Belle Moral: A Natural History
Shaw Festival 2008
Written by Ann-Marie MacDonald
Directed by Alisa Palmer
Starring Fiona Byrne, Jeff Meadows, Donna Bellville, Peter Hutt, Jeff Meadows and Julie Martell
Court House Theatre until Oct. 5
The Shaw Festival first premiered Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Belle Moral: A Natural History in 2005 It is good that a Canadian play is receiving a revival, but one wonders if it too soon. Nonetheless, a second viewing reveals a play chocked full of provocative ideas and scintillating language.
MacDonald’s premise is the state of science versus superstition at the turn of the 20th century. Feisty Pearl MacIsaac is fascinated by science and has been taken under the wing of the local doctor. What becomes clear as the play progresses is how Pearl views natural history as opposed to Dr. Reid. It is also a play about women’s liberation. Despite wavering Scottish accents, director Alisa Palmer keeps a lively pace.
Fiona Byrne and Peter Hutt give good performances as the two protagonists but charming characters come from Donna Bellville as dotty Aunt Flora and Jeff Meadows as Pearl’s feckless brother.
Belle Moral: A Natural History continues at the Shaw Festival’s Court House Theatre until Oct. 5.