Linda Griffith’s play about Margaret and Pierre Trudeau is currently on stage in Toronto
Maggie and Pierre opened on Thursday at Tarragon Theatre Workspace. Depending on your age Linda Griffith’s play about Margaret and Pierre Trudeau’s tumultuous marriage could be a trip down memory lane or a history lesson.
For me it was definitely memory lane. For a couple of reasons. Margaret Trudeau, Linda Griffith, and I were born within five years of each other, that’s our shared history. And, because I saw Linda Griffith perform Maggie and Pierre in 1981. It made a huge impression on me.
It was the first time I ever saw one person play more than one character in a one-person show. I was blown away. And the characters in the show were based on real people who were alive at the time so the audience could immediately tell whether or not Griffiths was doing a believable job. She was. She owned Pierre. It had to be a stunning performance for me to remember it 38 years later.
At this point you’re probably wondering which production I’m reviewing; a 38 year-old one or a new one. The new one of course. I just thought I should let you know about my potential bias.
In the new production, Kaitlyn Riordan plays Maggie, Pierre, and Henry, a reporter, who basically serves as the narrator.
For most of the audience it probably isn’t important that Riordan matches the mannerisms of her characters’ real life counterparts. I estimate that at least half and maybe more of her audience wouldn’t have been old enough to be aware of Pierre or Margaret Trudeau as public figures.
Having said that, Riordan’s portrayal of Maggie matched my memory of Maggie. Sometimes the hint of a quaver in her voice, as if tears weren’t far from the surface, sometimes confident and full of joy, wanting to change the world; sometimes desperate to be understood and sometimes not caring at all, just a girl who wanted to have fun. My heart ached for that young woman, people were horrible to and about her. Riordan seemed to really get Maggie.
At some points there wasn’t a big difference in the way that Riordan played the two male characters. Her transitions between them were quite fast and a couple of times I wasn’t quite sure who was talking, just for a couple of seconds though.
Director Rob Kempson’s decision to stage the play in the round (or in the square) made for a really intimate experience. I liked it a lot, there was a real ‘fly on the wall’ feeling that I don’t think I would have had with traditional staging.
Jung-Hye Kim’s set defined the boundaries of the stage. There was a chaise, a chair and side table, bar cart, and some bankers’ boxes. It managed to look heirloom shabby in the way that I imagine 24 Sussex looks.
Linda Griffith’s words were as wonderful on Thursday evening as they were 38 years ago. Funny and true to life. I have to remind myself that this is fiction. It might sound true and it might be close to the truth but only Maggie and Pierre know the truth.
As I was leaving I overheard a young man saying “Wow, that was amazing. So good, So funny. I thought it was going to be some dry history thing. It was great.”
Really, what more could you want? History and entertainment at the same time. And it’s funny. You should go.
- Maggie and Pierre is playing until May 19 at the Tarragon Theatre Workspace (30 Bridgman Ave)
- Show times are Wednesday through Saturday at 8:00pm and Sunday at 2:30pm
- Tickets are $22 adults/seniors, $17 students/arts workers, and are available online, by phone at (416) 531-1827 and at the box office
Photo of Kaitlyn Riordan by Greg Wong