Workshop Theatre’s production of classic work The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is a crackling conversation sparker

Theatre writer Caroline Russell-King offers another postcard review of a local production, this time of Workshop Theatre’s drama The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

Show: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. 

Playwright/composer: Jay Presson Allen, adapted from the novel by Muriel Spark.

Production Company/Theatre space: Workshop Theatre in the Victor Mitchell Theatre at the Pumphouse Theatres. 

Length: Two acts (140 mins., with intermission).

Genre(s): Drama.

Premise: A nun recounts the story of her teacher, who hand selected a group of girls, “the crème de la crème,” to give them a personal and twisted education with tragic results.

Why this play? Why now?: In today’s world it’s a statement on the influence, magnetism, delusion and ultimate destruction of narcissists.

Curiosities: Although a lot of the references come from a script written half a century ago,I wondered if the mention of fascism and war had the same effect on the original audience in 1961 as it does today.

Notable lines: “My students are loyal … my girl …” The protagonist utters in lines that take on a deluded and creepy tone.  

Notable writing: The whole play is written as flashback. This classic has some long, flowery monologues that in today’s script class would have been called for cuts; but it is the very overwriting that reinforces the self-centred point of view of the protagonist.

Notable performances: Luigino Savoia sets the right tone at the opening as the reporter. Tammy White in the title role affects combination of a mellifluous, monotonous, sotto voice which has an almost hypnotic quality. Jen LeClaire and Rob Hay have scenes that really crackle. Comic relief is provided by Cesar Salvater.

Notable design/production: The school uniforms by Jacquie Brennan have the look of authenticity and Miss Jean Brodie wears some beautiful period dresses.

Notable direction: Louis B. Hobson who directed Workshops’ inaugural show 50 years ago is, as the British would say, “a dab hand.” He and Kathleen Shore keep everyone motivated and moving on a spare and functional set.

One reason to see this show: This show will spark quite a few after-show discussions — what part of her was passion and what percentage of her was psychopathic?

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie runs until March 16 at the Victor Mitchell Theatre in the Pumphouse Theatres. For tickets and more information please go to

Caroline Russell-King is a playwright, dramaturg, and instructor. She is a member of The Playwrights Guild of Canada, the Dramatist Guild of America and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. You can find her work here