Review: Jewel (Shotgun Juliet)

Pip Dwyer in JewelJewel, a one-woman play about the aftermath of the Ocean Ranger disaster opens in Toronto

Shotgun Juliet’s production of Jewel opened on Wednesday at Red Sandcastle Theatre. It’s a perfect venue; small and intimate, the audience could reach out and touch the actors – if that wasn’t an incredibly inappropriate thing to do.

Jewel is an intimate, one woman play written by Joan MacLeod. It looks at the aftermath of the Ocean Ranger disaster through the eyes of the young widow of one of the 84 men killed when it sank on February 15, 1982. It was written in 1987 when it wasn’t as common as it is now to look at disasters through the eyes of the survivors. It’s poignant without being maudlin. I really liked everything about it.

The play takes place on Valentine’s Day in 1985. Marjorie (Pip Dwyer) has finished her farm chores and is in the kitchen tidying up and then having a beer before she goes to bed. She talks, at first to the audience and then to her husband, reminiscing first about Valentine’s through the ages and then about her life with her husband and since he died.

Dwyer’s Marjorie is feisty, pragmatic, a little bit sentimental, and strong. She never made me pity her. You could tell it hadn’t been easy for her but that she’s determined to get on with her life. I loved her performance, it felt very real, the way she kept talking as she washed out the milk can and wiped off the table.

Director Matthew Eger made great use of the stage. It’s wide and narrow and I think it would be tempting to pop the actor in the middle, especially with a one person show. Eger had Dwyer use the space really well, sometimes at one end, sometimes at the other and sometimes sitting at the table in the middle, always looking natural.

The set was wonderful. The program credits The Company and they did a terrific job creating the kitchen of a mobile home where nothing was new. There was an old fridge with cookbooks and a roll of waxed paper piled on top and a recipe and bills stick on the door with magnets. The table was aborite and the chairs were fancy vinyl. The beer bottles were stubbies. It was great.

So was Blair Purdy and Jackie Smulan’s sound. When the dog first barked at the door I thought it was a dog at the door of the theatre. When he barked in the distance he really sounded as if he had moved away. The wind was realistic too. I found myself wondering if it was real or a sound effect.

I really enjoyed Jewel. I liked the way the story was told by someone whose life was completely changed by the disaster. I particularly likes the way the narrative was balanced, serious lines and funny lines. I thought the production was terrific. You might want to have tissues ready. And buy tickets in advance.


  • Jewel is playing until February 14th at Red Sandcastle Theatre (922 Queen St E)
  • Performances are at 8:00pm
  • Tickets are $20 – $15 for students and arts workers
  • Tickets are available online and at the door

Photo of Pip Dwyer