Poster for 1979 by Michael Healey at ATP
Catch 1979 by Michael Healey running April 4 to 22, 2017 at Alberta Theatre Projects | Image: Courtesy of ATP


Michael Healey’s newest work plays conservative politics for a laugh

Amy Jo Espetveidt

  • Location Martha Cohen Theatre, Arts Commons  215 8th Ave. SE
  • Price $25 - $72
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Joe Clark, Brian Mulroney, Pierre Trudeau, and Stephen Harper walk onto a stage… it sounds like either the setup for a good joke or a timely political commentary. But who says it can’t be both?

Michael Healey’s 1979 takes audiences inside our country’s corridors of power in a funny and biting battle of wits based on real events. Our hero is Prime Minister Joe Clark. He’s young, idealistic, and stubborn. His opponents include Brian Mulroney, Pierre Trudeau, Stephen Harper, and pretty much everyone else. What will become of Mr. Clark? We know it doesn’t end well for our hero but just how did he get there?

An Enbridge New Canadian Play and world premiere presented by Alberta Theatre Projects, 1979 blends reality with a heavy dose of fiction. A comedic romp through the wood-panelled corridors of Canadian power, it takes place ahead of the 1979 budget vote that led to the demise of Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Joe Clark’s minority government after only six months in office.

Although the subject matter sounds heavy, the play is a witty rumination on power and the lengths politicians will go to get it, keep it, and use it.

“Having the show premiere against the backdrop of current events like Jason Kenney’s recent appointment to lead the PCs here in Alberta, and the ongoing battle for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada, it’s clear that conflicts presented in 1979 are incredibly relevant to the political climate in Canada right now,” says director Miles Potter, in a statement. “Only the hairstyles have changed.”

The final show of ATP’s all-Canadian season and Healey’s third play produced at the company (ATP also staged productions of Governor General’s Award-winning The Drawer Boy in 2001, and Plan B in 2003), 1979 features a great cast with Philip Riccio as Joe Clark who is joined by Christopher Hunt and Jamie Konchak, who play everyone else.

1979 runs from April 4 to April 22, 2017 at the Martha Cohen Theatre, Arts Commons (215 8th Ave. SE). The play contains some strong language and mature content, and is suggested for audiences over the age of 16.