Johnny Belinda - performed October 1990

By Elmer Harris

Performed with the kind permission of Samuel French

Director - Val Taylor


(in order of appearance)

Belinda McDonald Alison Trenerry
Dr Jack Davidson Simon Colbourne
Black McDonald Nigel Lister
Locky McCormick Chris Mason
Stella Maguire Debi Koval
Jimmy Dingwell Bill Chapman
Maggie McDonald Val Williams
Mrs McKee Jill Laurie
Mrs Lutz Brenda Chapman
Reverend Edward Tidmarsh Chris Mead
Villagers Alison Brett
Jude Hussey

Production Team

Jude Hussey, Jenny Rollings, Bruce Emeny, Maurice Barber, Greg Garrad, Alan Laurie, Dennis Murfitt, Alison Brett, Val Taylor, Jenny Glayzer, Chris Wheeler, Gill Baxter, Patience Ling, Viv Wheatley, and other volunteers not mentioned.

The Play

The year is 1900. The setting, a lonely island Northwest of Nova Scotia, Canada, where a hard-bitten race of farmers divide their time between fishing and tilling the stubborn soil. In the middle of this isolated environment lives the even more isolated Belinda, a young deaf girl whom the backward villagers shun. Having never been taught to communicate, Belinda nonetheless demonstrates sensitivity and intelligence, both of which come to the attention of the village’s new doctor who then decides to teach the girl sign language. While Belinda blossoms under his care, and a love relationship begins between them, she still falls prey to a local boy. The result is a child, Johnny Belinda, and it is in defence of her son that Belinda kills the boy’s father. The resulting trial pits the entire village against the girl who only has the truth, and the doctor’s love, on her side.


Jane Wyman’s Oscar-winning portrayal of the deaf-mute girl set the standard by which any version of this deeply moving piece must be judged. Allison Trennerry’s neglected and abused drudge, slowly awakening to womanhood as the first hope enters her silent, lonely world, ranks with the very best locally. Wonderfully expressive eyes, mobile, flower-like face and dainty, communicating hands all feature in a performance filled with a loving tenderness that is an almost tangible thing. Simon Colbourne’s heavily-built Doctor Jack is nevertheless capable of great gentleness and their moments together are something to treasure. Nigel Lister’s tall Black McDonald is clearly more at home realising his shameful disregard of his daughter’s humanity than operating as a tyrant to be feared. But Val Williams’ life-eroded Maggie – grouchy on principle, but filled with rough compassion in the great sisterhood of womankind – seems to grow out of the harsh soil itself. Chris Mason’s animal magnetism make him ideal casting for the brutish Locky and Debi Koval suggests the basic decency of his wife nicely. Chris Mead’s Reverend Tidmarsh teeters momentarily on the edge of comedy but comes through to his true calling and belief readily enough. Brenda Chapman and Jill Laurie create the self-righteousness of Mrs Lutz and Mrs McKee vividly and Bill Chapman’s jack-of-tall trades Jimmy is precisely that, with the accompanying corollary! The interior of the Canadian grist mill with its smoke-stained walls hung with harness, shears, scythe and hunting rifle, sets the scene well and the props are as well chosen and handled as the evocative theme music. It is the oldest of theatrical clichés to observe “not a dry eye in the house” – but mine were wet long before the final joyful cry of freedom and reconciliation.
Jimmy James

The Manifest Theatre Group’s latest production – the 41st in 12 years – is a real tear jerker.
Never afraid to try something different, the talented amateurs have scored yet another hit, with polished performance from the cast of 12, Johnny Belinda by Elmer Harris is set in the extreme north of Canada, and is a powerful account of the trials of a deaf mute girl. The story unfolds over eight scenes in three acts and, despite having nothing to say, Allison Trenerry as Belinda steals all the praise for her performance. But is was a close run choice, with great contributions from everyone.

Photo Shoot

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