Sunday, 28 February 2016

Without Sentimentality or Sensationalism

If a Place Could Be Made
Louise Moyes, Diane Daly, and director Anne Troake
Resource Center for the Arts
February 25 - 27, 2016

Louise Moyes and Diana Daly with Ryan's Fancy in the background.
If a Place Could Be Made tells the true story of Kitty and Daniel Daly of Riverhead, St. Mary’s Bay and their sprawling family of twelve children born between the years of 1913 and 1934.  The storyline has the makings of a Newfoundland fable– for six of the children were very tall and six had achondroplasia, or dwarfism.

The Daly family's stories are told through the talents of great-granddaughter (and great-niece) songwriter Diana Daly, dancer-actor Louise Moyes, and director Anne Troake.  When Kitty Daly gave birth to two small children after the birth of one able bodied child she went not to a doctor but to the archbishop to see what she could do.  The archbishop offers her absolution so that she wouldn't have to have more children.  Instead, the husband and wife decline.   The Daly family's decision to continue to grow their family is a story of inclusion regardless of difference and their faithful commitment is the meaning that lies behind the play's title.  If a Place Could Be Made puts our contemporary, politically correct era to shame and shows us what meaningful inclusion really looks like.

The drama relies heavily on projected images of the actual family to evoke their presence.  While the stage is full of emotion and nostalgia it is actually a relatively sparse production.  Action is largely focused on the home life of the family:  the stream of visitors, card games and songs.  There is an air of privacy, of an internal life and the audience is given not a sense of the extraordinary but of the ordinary.  We get an impression that the children were protected and within that emotional shelter they grew up with a healthy sense of self-esteem.  The events of the play are based on the memories of Diane Daly's grandfather, who was the eldest of the twelve children.

There is something decidedly understated about If a Place Could Be Made.  It is a drama that is presented without cloying sentimentality or visual sensationalism.  It is at the other end of the spectrum when compared with dramas about, for example, the Dionne Quintuplets.  We are not made to feel regret over the fact that none of the six children who were born with dwarfism never married.  Moyes and Daly portray the characters as being proud people who wouldn't want our pity and all their artistic decisions–script, gesture, and staging– support that impression.  If a Place Could Be Made doesn't end on a triumphant air.  It is a story about acceptance and getting on with life.

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