February 12, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 74  

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Free Wullie!

The Black Bonspiel of Wullie MacCrimmon
Starring: Robert Benson, William Vickers, Rachel Holden-Jones, Douglas E. Hughes
Written by: W.O. Mitchell
Directed by: D. Michael Dobbin

By Christopher Hodge
Gazette Staff

Jason Selinger/2004
HURRAY FOR OUR MATCHING SWEATERS! Left to right: Wullie MacCrimmon cast members William Vickers, David Kirby, David Snelgrove, Douglas E. Hughes and Thom Marriott.

Old Cloutie has a devilish proposition for Wullie MacCrimmon: if Wullie can best him in a game of curling, he’ll ensure the outcome of The MacDonald Briar Finals is in the bag. There’s a catch however — if Wullie loses, he forfeits his mortal soul and joins Cloutie in the deep, fiery pits of hell, spending the rest of eternity serving as the new Third on the Devil’s curling team.

Thus the stage is set and the stakes are high in The Black Bonspiel of Wullie MacCrimmon, now playing at The Grand Theatre from Feb. 3 to 21. It is a fun, delightful romp that requires no prior knowledge of curling — even a toothless hockey hooligan can enjoy this production.

At heart of the play is the wonderful pairing of Benson as Mr. O. Cloutie and Vickers as Wullie MacCrimmon.
Benson, who dwarfs the stout Vickers, plays a mean old devil. His performance embodies all the nastiness you would expect from such a timeless character. He is nine parts corrupt CEO, one part used car salesmen.

Vickers is grand as the fanatically energetic cobbler. The small Scotsman’s rantings and jabbering often looks like a black kettle on the verge of boiling over.

Their wonderful on-stage chemistry is best illustrated during one scene, where, in order for Wullie to wave his fists in the Devil’s face, he requires the use of a stepping stool.

The production behind Black Bonspiel is elegant. Set in small town Alberta, it appears to be torn from the pages of a gigantic pop-up book. MacCrimmon’s small cobbler shop serves as the primary location for the first half of the play providing enough room for the actors. However, had the shop been a few inches smaller, the drama could have become dangerously uncomfortable. Both Benson’s and Vickers’s performances require space.

It is fitting, then, that during the second half both actors have the whole stage at their disposal. The play builds to the ultimate showdown between the two. Rocks are tossed and brooms are swept during the nail-biting, dramatic conclusion of the unholy curling match, which is a true testament to the genius of the play.

The soft pyrotechnics and lighting also add to the magical feel of the production. It has the feel and charm of a Disney ride without the cheap mechanical chunkiness. In one scene, the Devil’s curling shoes, having stood idle, begin to glow faintly red and smoke as if they were still hot off the Devil’s feet.

The wardrobe is a delight to behold. Benson’s curling garb could only have been conceived during a Dante-inspired descent into the very bowels of hell itself — there is no other way to explain how dead-on it appears!

With an excellent cast and beautiful set, Wullie is a hellish delight to behold and will leave the audience laughing.



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