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Gloria Sawai.

Toronto, Playwrights Canada, c1981.
48pp, paper, $3.00.
ISBN 0-88754-282-4.

Grades 6 and up.
Reviewed by Fran Newman.

Volume 11 Number 2.
1983 March.

Neighbours was commissioned and first produced by Alberta Theatre Projects for its Theatre-in-Education program in April and May of 1980 at the Canmore Opera House, Heritage Park, Calgary. It is presented as "a play for children," a description that means for children to view. The acting would be too emotionally demanding for children; even the two twelve-year-olds would need to be fairly fluent in French and Norwegian. Nevertheless, it could be enjoyed and appreciated by children from grades 6 up to high school level.

The setting shows a double home scene: the interiors of the Nord and Bouchard homes found near to an unnamed prairie town. The Nord family consists of father Magnus, mother Kirsten, and son Per. Marie Bouchard, a widow whose husband died in a blizzard, lives in the second house with Giselle, her daughter. The theme of the play is loneliness and alienation. The elder Nords miss their homeland; Marie Bouchard saves pennies to travel home to her relatives in Quebec. The three are apprehensive of other "foreigners" and especially each other. The children, howeve*, are able to communicate freely:

         Giselle: Why can't Norwegians learn
         English, like other immigrants!
         Per: You are not so good yourself,
         saying half in French sometimes.
         Giselle: Are all Norwegian boys so
         Per: Are all French girls so stuck up!

Magnus now loves the "blades of wheat singing in the wind" but Kirsten puts blankets against the windows to keep "the dark, and the cold, and all evil things" from coming in. Kirsten comes perilously close to a breakdown after a locust infestation, taking to her bed and refusing to speak. Giselle and her mother, hesitating and fearing rebuff, visit the Nord house. The play ends with Kirsten being unable to resist the opportunity to have a woman friend in whom she can confide.

The adult characters come through much more strongly than the children. Kirsten is a complex person whose fear is not erased by her husband's plea to forget the old ways and appreciate the new land. Marie shows her stamina as she carries on with determination.

This play will fit in well with many history units as well as offering an excellent vehicle for later discussion. One hopes it will be offered again and in many Canadian areas.

Fran Newman, Spring Valley P. S., Brighton, ON.
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