Blood on the Moon: Pierre Brault Returns With his First Historical Drama That Has Travelled the World.

Blood on the Moon: Pierre Brault Returns With his First Historical Drama That Has Travelled the World.

Ottawa playwright and actor Pierre Brault has, over the past dozen or so years, established himself as a singular and important figure in theatre both in Ottawa and beyond. One-man shows like 5 O’Clock Bells, about jazz guitar legend Lenny Breau, are wonderful pieces. So it feels heretical to say that Blood on the Moon is no longer the startlingly compelling piece it was when, after debuting at the 1999 Ottawa Fringe Festival, it was expanded and mounted at the National Arts Centre, toured extensively and, in 2007, was adapted as a Gemini-winning film for Bravo television.

Currently being reprised at the Great Canadian Theatre Company as a replacement for You Fancy Yourself after that show’s writer/performer Maja Ardal became seriously ill, Blood on the Moon retells a fascinating and nasty bit of Canadian history: the trial and execution – it was Canada’s last public hanging – of James Patrick Whelan after he was convicted based on shaky evidence of assassinating the prominent politician Thomas D’Arcy McGee in 1868. The complex politics of Irish immigrants in Canada swirl around the storyline which sees Brault, ever a master of quick-silver role changes, enacting not just Whelan but other characters from a French-Canadian lumberjack to legal eagles.
Problem is, the show, directed by John Koensgen, doesn’t connect emotionally. It’s technically admirable – not just Brault’s character changes but also Martin Conboy’s scenography and other elements. But it’s hard to get involved when you don’t feel much for Whelan, and when some of the other figures seem more like caricatures than characters. There are also moments in the trial when one’s attention wanders perilously far from what’s happening on stage.
Since debuting Blood on the Moon, Brault has done far more riveting work. And we, the audience, have seen some terrific one-person shows in Ottawa as theatre budgets have constricted cast sizes. Put it all together, and Blood on the Moon has not aged well.
Blood on the Moon runs at GCTC until Feb. 5. 613-236-5196,

Blood on the Moon

Written and performed by Pierre Brault

Directed by John Koensgen

Lighting design by Martin Conboy

Sound design by Marc Desormeaux

Stage Managed by Samira Rose

Blood on the Moon is a Sleeping Dog Theatre production in association with the National Arts Centre English Theatre.


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