Written by:

Carol Shields, Sarah Cassidy

Cast Size:

Roles For:

  • Men: 2
  • Women: 8



Year Written:



“A parent’s worst nightmare is to lose a child. Unless, by Carol Shields, examines all the aspects of a grown child abandoning her family and friends and going to live on a bleak and sinister street corner in friendless Toronto. The domino effect this has on all the members of the family is that this child is effectually lost to all of them. Norah is discovered wearing a placard “Goodness” and sitting on the sidewalk of a busy intersection in the city. She refuses to have any contact with her parents, siblings, or friends.

Inevitably, now begins the maternal self-examination. How had she failed to bring up her daughter as a happy, well adjusted and moral young woman? Where did the parents fail? What will the younger sisters do when they leave school? Will they too abandon promising university education for no apparent cause? Does being a professional working writer prevent Reta from fulfilling her role as a mother? Has she neglected the children? These are questions with which all parents torture themselves when something goes wrong in the family. Always there is the appalling weight of guilt.” (Reviewer, Jane Penistan)

Unless is based on Carol Shields’ popular and critically acclaimed novel and was co-written with Sarah Cassidy.


  • Reta
  • Norah
  • Christine
  • Sally
  • Tom
  • Lois
  • Gwen
  • Arthur Stinger
  • Colin
  • Ben
  • Natalie

Actors can play multiple roles.

First Produced:

2005 at Bluma Appel Theatre, Toronto, ON


The script for Unless is available in The Arts Club Anthology: 50 Years of Canadian Theatre in Vancouver through the Canadian Play Outlet website. Also available through Playwrights Canada Press.

For more information about the playwright and her work, visit the CWPO collection.

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