The Public Servant Serves Up the Satire

You don’t need to be toiling away in a cubicle, answering the noble call to work for Canadians to be entertained by The Public Servant, currently playing at the GCTC. However, if you do work for the government, then you will find it all the more amusing.

Writers Jennifer Brewin, Haley McGee, Sarah McVie and Amy Rutherford combined efforts to create a show that provides many chuckles, all the while eliciting much empathy for the predicaments in which the protagonist, Madge, a young, idealistic newcomer to the public service, finds herself. As she rhymes off all the wonderful things she loves about her home and native land, she begins her job as an analyst.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Alexander

There are a number of public servant stereotypes captured to perfection. Lois embodies the person who is taken with the minutiae of document formatting and hierarchy, who appears simple but really has a passive aggressive side (seen in her intent on ensuring her underling reports to her and respects the chain of command). Cynthia is the neurotic bigger boss who dreams of better days gone by in the public service.

There are many satirical moments and some great humour throughout, as Madge learns the ropes of life as public servant.

Then, as the play progresses, the grim realities of working for a large organization kick in. Working on projects that may or may not ever see the light of day, and working with colleagues whose priorities are not hers, eat away at her enthusiasm. Ten years later, feeling undervalued and underappreciated, she is faced with the strategic review process and has to decide whether or not to compete for her job. Even then, the writers manage some great satire.

So, while the play definitely has its funny moments, there is also a sad undertone to the story. However, anyone looking for profound messages about public service politics, working life or the state of our national institutions will not find it in The Public Servant. Arguably, that is a missed opportunity.

The acting, without exception, is fantastic. Sarah McVie takes on two roles and shines in both. (She plays Lois and Janis, who is the deliverer of bad news on strategic review). Haley McGee’s Madge is entirely lovable and Amy Rutherford takes on various roles with ease and is fabulous as Cynthia (Lois and Madge’s boss).

All in all, it’s a great night out, even a beautiful, summer sunny one. The Public Servant runs until June 21st.

The show is officially sold out, but you can show up at the theatre just before show time in hopes of grabbing a seat from a no-show.