ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
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
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
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
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
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.