Mary Walsh tours one-woman play ‘Dancing with Rage’ after physical setbacks

The Canadian Press
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Comedian Mary Walsh is shown in a handout photo from her one-woman play “Dancing With Rage.”
— Photo by The Canadian Press/Mirvish Productions

Like her comical warrior princess TV character Marg Delahunty, Mary Walsh has felt like she’s been in battle in recent months — but of the physical variety, not the political one Marg is known for.

A year ago, the riotous satirist from CBC-TV’s “This Hour Has 22 Minutes” — who unveils her touring one-woman play “Dancing with Rage” in Toronto Tuesday — was in hospital with pneumonia in  St. John’s for several weeks .

The illness forced her to cancel the run of the show at Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto.

Then last June when she was visiting her son in Toronto, she was hit by a cyclist while getting off a downtown streetcar.

“He was going about 30 miles an hour, really seriously, he was tearing through there and he knocked me down, knocked me out and broke three of my ribs,” Walsh, 60, recalled in a recent interview at the offices of Mirvish Productions, which is running the play in Toronto.

Walsh said the incident happened a day before Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was accused of driving past open streetcar doors and talking on his cellphone at the wheel.

It was an eerie coincidence, given her headline-making incident with the mayor in October 2011.

That’s when she confronted him in the driveway of his house, in character as Marg the audacious politician ambusher, to interview him for a comical “22 Minutes” segment — and Ford called 911.

“So it was good that it wasn’t Mayor Ford who was coming through, only a guy on a bicycle,” Walsh said with her hearty howl.

“It was the first time I felt some sympathy with Mayor Ford about (his feelings toward cyclists) because I felt, ‘Come on!”’

Walsh’s troubles weren’t over yet, though.

About six weeks after being hit by the cyclist, she got pneumonia again.

The Gemini Award winner, who’s received the Order of Canada and a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, said her ribs are still painful and her mobility is somewhat limited.

But she is able to make all the costume changes needed to portray several of her most famous roles — including Marg, Dakey Dunn and Connie Bloor — for “Dancing with Rage.”

The show is centred around Marg getting macular degeneration and deciding that before she goes blind, she wants to see the child she conceived at Expo 67 and put up for adoption when she was a teen.

As she embarks on a cross-country search for the child, she runs into obstacles from sources including Air Canada, Rogers and the banks.

“It’s a very modern tale and there’s a dark period in the middle of the show where Marg is convinced that her love child is Stephen Harper,” said Walsh. “But phew, phew, phew, turns out he’s not, he’s too old.”

Walsh said Marg stems from her days on CBC-TV’s “CODCO” sketch comedy series and is named after her aunt Mae’s good friend from Mount Pearl.

“I guess she represents strength,” said Walsh.

“It’s like Marg says in the show: once you are a middle-aged woman running around in a felt, gold, glue-encrusted costume with a plastic sword from Toys ’R’ Us ... what are they going to do to you? Are they going to embarrass you or something?”

Marg’s story also echoes some aspects of Walsh’s life: both have macular degeneration, and, like Marg’s child, Walsh was also adopted.

Walsh said it happened when she was eight months old and she was treated in hospital for pneumonia.

When she left hospital, two of her aunts and an uncle took her in because her family basement home, which was just two doors down, was too damp for her condition.

“Then somehow or other I failed to make the trip back, which I never really understood why,” said Walsh. “I always felt that it was something that I did at eight months old, some horrendous, unforgivable thing I did at eight.

“But you know, as you get older of course you see that your life is your life and that you are blessed that that is your life.”

“Dancing with Rage” is being staged at the Panasonic Theatre.

Organizations: CBC, Air Canada, Rogers Panasonic Theatre

Geographic location: Toronto, Canada, Mount Pearl

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Recent comments

  • Aunt Lizzie
    March 02, 2013 - 22:58

    Mary Walsh hasn't done anything funny in a very long time. Lately her work has been puerile and unimaginative. I don't think this rehash of her greatest hits is going to revive her fizzled career.

  • Clive
    March 02, 2013 - 17:53

    Saw her show Dancing with Rage twice in Vancouver in February; loved it. Gotta go see it; she is the best.

  • Justin Case
    March 02, 2013 - 15:50

    I was very disappointed when Dakey got passed over for the recent Senate appointment.

  • Susan
    March 02, 2013 - 07:54

    I'd love the show to do a night or more again in St. John's.

  • Elaine Bidgood
    March 01, 2013 - 10:02

    Mary, you are beautiful and courageous women. Thank you for being you and remaining you. All the best. An old friend, Elaine

    • Toon
      March 01, 2013 - 13:44

      Hope her new show is funny