The Public Servant


Common Boots Theatre in association with Nightwood Theatre present

The Public Servant

Written by
Jennifer Brewin, Haley McGee, Sarah McVie and Amy Rutherford

  • Madge Amy Keating
  • Lois, VariousSarah McVie
  • Cynthia, VariousAmy Rutherford
  • Director Jennifer Brewin
  • Choreographer Kate Alton
  • Set and Costume DesignerAnna Treusch
  • Lighting DesignerMartin Conboy
  • Sound DesignerMichael Rinaldi
  • Stage ManagerSandy Plunkett
  • Production ManagerRebecca Vandevelde
  • Assistant Lighting DesignerHugh Martignago
  • Head TechnicianCecilia Waszczuk

After a sold-out run in Ottawa at The Great Canadian Theatre Company, Common Boots Theatre (formerly known as Theatre Columbus) in association with Nightwood Theatre present The Public Servant in Toronto, at Berkeley Street Theatre Upstairs, 26 Berkeley Street, March 13 – April 3, 2016.

Inspired by dozens of interviews with public servants, this laugh-out-loud comedy is a vivid portrayal of never-ending protocols, heroic dedication and the sometimes fuzzy divide between personal need and public good.

An unofficial public service motto is: “fearlessly advise and loyally implement,” but what happens when that advice isn’t heard?

During the Harper government drastic cuts were made to the public service with a loss of over 37,000 jobs and budgets slashed in Veterans Affairs Canada, Environment Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Statistics Canada, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and beyond (stats from the Public Service Alliance of Canada).

Kelly Thornton, Artistic Director of Nightwood Theatre says, “In the face of cutbacks, the muzzling of scientists and under-funding, this play gave voice to public servants in a way that is painfully funny, provocative and powerful. Will things change under the Trudeau administration? This piece speaks to why it’s important that they do.”

Brewin, McGee, McVie and Rutherford together interviewed over 40 public servants of varying ages, at all levels and who had worked in governments under Pierre Trudeau through to Stephen Harper. The team then collectively created the play entirely through improvisation. “We collaborated to tell this thought-provoking, funny story that celebrates the tenacity and flexibility as well as the heartbreak and frustrations experienced of life in the civil service,” says Brewin.

Step inside the halls of power as Madge, a young, idealistic and enthusiastic civil servant, gets ready to write her first official memo. The only thing standing in her way are endless revisions, an impossible deadline, funding cutbacks and the ever-shifting world of government protocol. This hard-hitting and hilarious play asks: doesn’t a successful society – one that is engaged, working, healthy and educated – require a successful civil service?

Show History

undercurrents: theatre below the mainstream, Ottawa, ON: February 05, 2013 – February 17, 2013
The Public Servant’s first public performance was part of the undercurrents festival in Ottawa.

The Great Canadian Theatre Company, Ottawa, ON: June 02, 2015 – June 21, 2015
In 2015, The Public Servant had a sold out run as part of GCTC’s 40th season.

Common Boots Theatre in association with Nightwood Theatre, Toronto, ON: March 13, April 3, 2016
In the spring of 2016, The Public Servant, produced by Common Boots Theatre in association with Nightwood Theatre, played to sold out houses in Toronto. The show was sponsored by NUPGE & OPSEU. The ensemble was nominated for a 2016 Dora award.

Awards and Reviews

2016 Dora Awards – Independent Theatre Divison

  • Nomination: Outstanding Performance – Ensemble

“it may be the most successful Canadian attempt to parody life inside politics and the civil service”

– Steve Paikin, TVO’s The Agenda

“[The Public Servant] puts an honest human face on all those in the public service who are working to make their communities better places to live. And in this age of austerity and privatization that’s not as easy to accomplish as it once was.”

– James Clancy, former NUPGE National President

“The Public Servant is a paean to those in the federal civil service, people – in this case, women – whose job it is to fearlessly advise on and loyally implement policies for Canadians’ well-being.”

– Jon Kaplan, Now Toronto NNN

“A fast-paced and hilarious play…satirical without losing honesty.”

– The Charlebois Post, Ottawa

“A delightful confection of wit and insight.”

– Capital Critic’s Circle, Ottawa