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Tuesday January 21, 2014 in Books


By David Fennario

There’s no way we shoulda been arrested for sabotaging the war effort … trying to organize a strike …

But if you really wanted to arrest somebody, you could go down to the British Munitions Factory and charge them with murder … cuz that’s what it was. Making us work all these long, crazy hours was bound to kill somebody.

From the renowned author of Balconville, this powerful drama gives a voice to the disillusioned working-class women employed at the British Munitions Factory in Verdun, Quebec, during the First World War. Following in the trudging footsteps of Fennario’s anti-war protest play Bolsheviki (Talonbooks, 2012), Motherhouse similarly debunks the sentimental notions of duty, heroism, and nationhood that figured so prominently in Canadian war effort campaigns and that persist in Canadian history textbooks today.

In 1915, with tensions running high across the country over conscription and linguistic and religious issues, dedicated mothers, wives, sisters, and sweethearts assemble artillery shells to support the war effort and inadvertently find themselves called together to bring about change both in their working conditions and in their personal lives. Meanwhile, their beloved soldiers die on battlefields overseas while their children starve at home as prices rise because of war profiteering. Verdun’s munitions manufacturer employed more than four thousand women during the war, including Fennario’s mother. Tragically, the city of Verdun sacrificed more soldiers to both World Wars than any other place in Canada.

Cast of 1 woman.

ISBN 13: 9780889228481 | ISBN 10: 0889228485
5.5 W x 8.5 H x 0.331 D inches | 128 pp pages
$17.95 CAN / $17.95 US
Rights: World
Backlist | Drama | Bisac: DRA013000
Paperback Edition


“Our narrator is a woman named Lillabit, although it seems Fennario’s true protagonist is the city of Verdun, itself a tragic hero of the Great War, and a site of warfare … Motherhouse challenges Canadian theatregoers’ expectations of what it is to experience a one-person show. … it is more a poetic political essay told through a theatrical character than it is a theatrical exploration of character involving political themes. … Fennario is working against the practices in theatre-making that serve to depoliticize creative output. He tasks us to tell real stories that can facilitate change: ‘No more pretending to be someone else on or offstage.’ … Just as Lillabit’s anti-war storytelling interrupts the militaristic, romanticized, red poppy-filled narrative of World War I that permeates Canadiana, Fennario’s script is an attempt to interrupt dominant practices of theatre-making.”
Montreal Review of Books

“a powerful work, rendered magnificently​​ … the play’s real subject is the choice we all face: to fight or uphold injustice.”
– Amir Khadir [translated]

“a vituperative indictment of class inequality, as expressed through a working-class Verdun woman’s experience of the war. It’s also darkly hilarious at all the wrong moments, for which I am personally eternally grateful … a very punk-rock production that takes aim at both modern and older manifestations of inequality, the use of the police state, and the perils of unfettered capitalism. I think that this play will take a lot of people by surprise (and anger a whole lot more).”
– Bloody Underrated

About the Contributors

David Fennario

Anglophone playwright born David Wiper in Montreal, Quebec, 1947. He was raised in the working class district of Pointe-St-Charles, an area he would make the centre of most of his plays.

Motherhouse cover

David Fennario

Bolsheviki cover

David Fennario

The Death of René Lévesque cover
Death of René Lévesque, The

David Fennario

Banana Boots

David Fennario

Doctor Thomas Neill Cream
Doctor Thomas Neill Cream

David Fennario

Joe Beef

David Fennario

Balconville cover

David Fennario

Nothing to Lose

David Fennario

On the Job

David Fennario

Copyright Talonbooks 1963-2018



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