Belle Moral: A Natural History by Ann-Marie MacDonaldAnn-Marie MacDonald’s love of the fabulous is in full force with this multi-layered reworking of her earlier play, The Arab’s Mouth.
Following her father’s death, amateur scientist Pearl MacIsaac struggles to discover the secret of her family’s past, which her father had been kept hidden with the help of the family doctor. Set in Scotland in 1899, this dark and redemptive gothic comedy is a story of family secrets that have come to life and of the birth and evolution of ideas – and truly a play of morals. Reaching out in two directions to reconcile the extremes of rationalism and romanticism, Belle Moral embraces a complex range of turn-of-the-century thought including Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, contemporary medical beliefs and the concept of eugenics.
Symphony for Nature, feat. Michael Gordon's "Natural History" (trailer)
MacDonald aspires here to the trifecta beloved of Shaw and Stoppard: intellectual theme, theatrical plot and witty dialogue. And while she jumps through all of the hoops some more successfully than others , she never succeeds in uniting the disparate elements into one coherent whole. The final part of the equation, the effortless banter, frequently lapses into heavily arch post-modernism.
Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia
Reviews July October 7, On the evidence of the Shaw Festival production the play is still in need of major revisions. MacDonald has so much to say about such a wide range of topics that she has neglected to develop a sound plot or well-rounded characters. Victor arrives but almost immediately attempts suicide. Meanwhile, the family doctor Seamus Reid and Flora furtively discuss what to do with the creature in the attic and when to tell Pearl about it.