In the summer of 1866, John A Macdonald took a train ride westward across Canada to celebrate the completion of the railway and to see the vast country he helped unite under Confederation. He was joined by his wife Lady Agnes, who vivaciously took in the scenery while perched on a chair fastened to the locomotive’s cowcatcher.
Now, Macdonald and his entourage are touring the country again — this time, in a travelling production out of Charlottetown’s Confederation Center for the Arts. Throughout the spring of 2015, the show will stop at 12 Canadian capitals, sharing the life and legacy of Canada’s first Prime Minister.
The tour is made up of two components. The first is a free theatrical performance called “The Founding Father: His Story. Our Canada.” This biographical play captures the entirety of Macdonald’s life in a record fifty minutes. The four talented cast members seamlessly weave in and out of different roles, bringing to life the numerous people that undoubtedly had a great impact on Macdonald’s decisions and policies. Whether French or British, liberal or conservative, friend or folly, audience members meet a range of characters from Macdonald’s past.
Macdonald’s life story is played out in front of a backdrop of primary sources and images, and a beautiful display of sand-art. The show is light and upbeat and the cast members demonstrate their musical prowess through a few toe-tapping tunes. Nevertheless, the show manages to demonstrate just how messy our past has been and touches on many serious themes, like the execution of Louis Riel, the Residential School System, and Macdonald’s own personal tragedies. Ultimately, audience members are entertained and leave the theatre with a bit more knowledge about Canadian history, and hopefully a few questions, too.
A lobby display includes several large exhibit panels that delve a bit deeper into the content. Visitors can read detailed timelines and learn more about the Victorian society in which Canada developed.
The second component, called “The Quest for Canada” engages students in a staged debated with Macdonald himself. Students are introduced to the world of political debate and get to see first-hand the wit and intelligence of their first Prime Minister.
"The Founding Father: His Story. Our Canada" and "The Quest for Canada" are directed by Confederation Centre's artistic director, Adam Brazier and written with prominent Macdonald biographer and historian Richard Gwyn. Award-winning journalist, speechwriter, and historian, Arthur Milnes contributed to The Quest for Canada debate content. The production team includes projections designer Jamie Nesbitt, sand-artist Marie Linda Bluteau, and score composer, Samuel Sholdice. The all-Canadian cast features Matthew Donovan (Macdonald), Réjean Cournoyer (Sir George-Étienne Cartier), Cameron MacDuffee (George Brown), and Josée Boudreau (Mrs. Isabella Macdonald, Mrs. Agnes Macdonald).
The Sir John A. Tour is made possible through the financial support of the Government of Canada, through the Department of Canadian Heritage; official media partner Postmedia Network Inc.; official travel supporter Air Canada; and Starwood Hotels & Resorts, official accommodation supporter.
Visit thesirjohnatour.ca for more information about the show.