Arguably you could not find a better suited play to stage at the Irving Greenberg Centre which is a mere stone’s throw from Tunney’s Pasture, home to a plethora of federal buildings including Stats Canada. The Public Servant, presented by the Great Canadian Theatre Company (co-developed with Common Boots Theatre) in association with the 2015 Magnetic North Theatre Festival, is a laugh out loud comedy about the inner-workings of Canada’s political administration. With a strong female ensemble and snappy timing, the sold out production is sure to resonate strongly with the audience here in Ottawa, where the vast majority is no doubt familiar with government employment.

Directed by Jennifer Brewin, the piece focuses on three women who operate in different sectors of parliament and pokes fun at the daily struggles that come alongside their oftentimes thankless jobs. We journey alongside Madge (played by Haley McGee), our ultra-patriotic protagonist, who starts out as a fresh-faced and eager analyst but becomes more and more disenchanted with her fantasy career. Along the way we meet Lois (Sarah McVie) and Cynthia (Amy Rutherford), Madge’s superiors and seasoned employees who are more than complacent within what some might call a faulty system. Overall, this show certainly speaks to all those people who, on a daily basis, are required to give so much for an employer who rarely, if ever, appreciates their individual efforts.

L-R: Amy Rutherford, Sarah McVie, Haley McGee; photo credit Andrew Alexander
L-R: Amy Rutherford, Sarah McVie, Haley McGee; photo credit Andrew Alexander

The Public Servant is incredibly funny. Not only do the performers embody distinct stand-alone characters but they also play off one another beautifully creating a great comedic rhythm between the three. It’s refreshing to see a strong female cast doing a political comedy in this city and it is easy to see why tickets are such a hot commodity.

My only criticism is that this piece could afford to go even deeper with its lead characters. I was most intrigued by how their work affects these women’s lives outside of the office (particularly Cynthia’s story), though we are only given a tiny glimpse. This might serve to give those of us who have never worked in politics or administration a little more substance in the plot to hold on to as a lot of the comedic bits rely on having the knowledge and/or experience of working on Parliament Hill.

L-R: McVie, McGee, Rutherford; photo credit Andrew Alexander
L-R: McVie, McGee, Rutherford; photo credit Andrew Alexander

That being said, this show has some real gems. The reference to the recent decision to lift the federal tax on feminine hygiene products is genius: “WOMEN HAVE BEEN BLEEDING SINCE THE BEGINNING OF TIME”; and Rutherford’s appearance as a number of tertiary characters (most notably Gary) is simply the cherry on this cake. A thoroughly enjoyable performance that ticket holders should definitely look forward to.

The Public Servant plays until June 21st.

(p.s. this review has been “pubic checked” by yours truly)

Brianna McFarlane


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