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George F. Walker

Toronto, Playwrights Canada, 1988. 330pp, paper, $6.95. ISBN 0-88754-464-9
Distributed by Playwrights Union of Canada, 8 York Street, 6th Floor, Toronto, Ont. M5J 1R2. CIP

Grades 12 and up/Ages 17 and up
Reviewed by Irene N. Watts.

Volume 17 Number 4
1989 July

George F. Walker is one of Canada's most innovative playwrights. His work has been produced abroad and with increasing frequency in Canada. He received the 1984 Chalmers Award for Drama for Criminals in Love, and Beautiful City was nominated for the same award this year. His debut as a playwright was at the Factory Theatre Lab in 1970, a theatre with which he has maintained close ties.

In Criminals in Love, young urban lovers must cope with a small-time crook father who insists on implicating them in the plots of a neurotic terrorist uncle. In Better Living, Mother is digging under the foundations for a better future, Uncle Jack has lost his faith, three daughters with a variety of problems return home, and the new lodger may or may not be their deceased father. Murder seems a viable solution. In Beautiful City, two families fight for possession of property, assets and each other in this satire on the decay of urban life and morals.

Unlike many earlier writers in Canada who wrote lovingly of rural conditions and problems, Walker creates characters bred of the decaying wasteland of the inner city in which they are completely at home. They draw us immediately into the landscape of school yards, alleys and seedy homes and seem to make even the most grotesque and bizarre situation plausible.

Walker is a brilliant and highly imaginative writer of dialogue and of broadly theatrical characters. The women are particularly well drawn. Dian the policewomen in Better Living has "the manner of a policewoman, but the brainwaves of a politician." Gina May in Beautiful City, who rummages in garbage bags, is the mother of five children and is a witch who endows people with animal characteristics. Gail, abused as a child, brings home criminal boy-friends and plans to be a hair stylist, and Norah is digging a hole under the living room to make a haven for her family in Better Living.

Both narrative and characters are always on the brink of violence that threatens to errupt, and the plays have the cliff-hanging suspense of a 1940 B movie. Frequently, there is a film-like quality to many of the episodes. Plots are complex, involved and riveting - a wonderful mixture of realism and soaring imagination.

There is never a dull moment. Walker writes of obsessions, anxiety, family break-up, and odd loyalties, of corruption, decay and love with a comedic and theatrical imagery that captivates and stimulates the audience to awareness of what is chaotic in our society.

Irene N. Watts, White Rock, B.C.
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