Belle Moral: A Natural History

Written by:

Ann-Marie MacDonald

Artist/Creator(s) Identify As:

2SLGBTQIA+

Cast Size:
12

Roles For:

  • Men: 5
  • Women: 4

Genre:

Dark Comedy

Themes:

Class
Evolution
Family
Gothic
Inheritance
Marriage
Mental Health
Scotland
Secrecy
Supernatural
Victorian

Length:

150 min.

Year Written:

2005

Synopsis:

“In Belle Moral: A Natural History, we are steeped in a world on the cusp between magic and art, and science and madness. Set in 1899 just outside Edinburgh, the play unfolds in the venerable estate known as Belle Moral, home to Pearl MacIsaac, an avid amateur palaeontologist and proud “new woman”; her maiden Aunt Flora, a sweetly maternal figure who nonetheless keeps an iron-grip on her set of keys; and a staff of quirky household retainers who seem to know more than they are willing say.

As Pearl steels herself for the reading of her late father’s will and the inevitable arrival of her wayward younger brother, Victor, she also does her best to dismiss the sinister signs that her home may house another occupant…one whose existence her aunt and the good Doctor Reid seem determined to keep secret.” (From the Playwright’s Website)

Characters:

Pearls MacIsaac: thirty-two, an amateur artist.

Flora MacIsaac: a lady in her late fifties or early sixties.

Victor MacIsaac: Pearl’s younger brother, twenty-seven.

Young Farleigh: an elderly servant.

Dr. Seamus Reid: a gentleman in his late fifties or early sixties.

Puppy: a black dog with a flat head for patting.

Mr Abbott: a solicitor in his thirties.

Wee Farleigh: a young and handsome servant.

Claire: a young woman.

The Bride / The Jackal / The Creature

First Produced:

2005, Shaw Festival Theatre

Resources:

Belle Moral: A Natural History is published by Random House Canada.

To view other works by this playwright, click here.

Notes:

An earlier version of this play, The Arab’s Mouth, premiered at Factory Theatre in 1990.

Featured Play Category:

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Selection Notes:

This play strikes me as a cross between MacDonald's more widely produced Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) and a period piece like Sharon Pollock's Blood Relations (another favourite of mine). Belle Moral explores the manners and social expectations of the Victorian era through the microcosm of a single family, while using comedy and the supernatural to see how far those conventions can stretch. Where Goodnight Desdemona is bombastic and chaotic, Belle Moral's darker gothic humour sneaks up on you - much like the central "monster" of the drama. In the age of books and movies like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, there's clearly a proven taste for turning well-worn narratives on their heads. This play manages to do just that without falling into the cheesiness of these pop culture texts. - Lisa

MacDonald provides a unique universe for the actors and director to play in. The script requires high attention to detail in the set, costuming, and mannerism. Students have an opportunity to really engage in the creation of this piece because of the fantastic element merged with science-fiction. Please note that there is a character portrayal that alludes to the ability spectrum. -Grace