REVIEW: Mr. Pim Passes By

Continuing their celebration of their 100th season, ten plays from ten decades continues with a play brought from up from the roaring 20s. Mr. Pim Passes By, written by famed author A. A. Milne.

Should you see it?

For all he had to say, he oughtn’t have said anything at all.
Ottawa Little Theatre's Mr. Pim Passes By

Robert Hicks as George Marden

When a befuddled old fart, the titular Mr. Pim, visits the Marden family to get a letter of introduction to some further acquaintances of his, a misspoken word throws the marriage of George and Olivia Marden into chaos – which may just be to the benefit of young Dinah and her beloved, Brian Strange.

Mr. Pim Passes By was written by famed Winnie the Pooh author A. A. Milne in 1919. Milne was a popular playwright even before the huge success of his Pooh books, and Mr. Pim Passes By was no exception, having itself been very successful in the 20s. I’m sad to say that Mr. Carraway Pim (Barry Caiger) should have just kept on trucking rather than making another pass. His is not a timeless tale.

Ottawa Little Theatre's Mr. Pim Passes By

Barry Caiger as Mr. Pim

The main story of the play was the state of the marriage between George and Olivia Marden, her second, and the scandal caused by the revelation that her first husband may not have died after all. Unfortunately there was barely anything in the way of dramatic conflict through this A-story, which left some quite long scenes between these two characters kind of tedious. This could be because there was next to no chemistry between Robert Hicks and Jenny Sheffield, who played the Mardens. I just wasn’t feeling them as a couple and it left me dry and unconnected.

It might also be simply that this A-story is out of date. The drama is meant to come from a situation that would have been positively scandalous in the 20s. To shame that a man would marry an already married woman — what would the neighbours say? In a 1920s Britain where propriety and image are of the utmost, this sells. But today?

Whether it was for those reasons, or others, I simply wasn’t engaged in what was supposed to be the driving conflict of the play.

Ottawa Little Theatre's Mr. Pim Passes By

Katie Norland as Dinah

Fortunately, the B-story helps make up for it. Young Dinah is looking for permission to marry her socialist painter (i.e., unsuitable) of a suitor, Brian Strange (William Verreault Milner). To do so, they need to convince stuffy old George that marrying for love is more important than anything else. (See the connection to the A-story? George has to choose between propriety and a wife he loves.)

Dinah, played by Katie Norland, is wonderfully precocious and full of life and has eyes as big as the world she’s ready to jump headlong into. Her scenes buzz with energy. If she were in more of them, or if the others shared her bon vivance, this may have succeeded at being a beautifully whimsical piece of theatre.

As is, Mr. Pim Passes By wasn’t bad. There were some nice laughs, and it will be of particular interest to anybody who wants a look at or has an interest in the mores and morals of the 20s.

Mr Pim Passes By runs at the Ottawa Little Theatre until December 15th. Find out more about the show including ticket information, photos, and video preview, in our preview article.

What did you think? Did you see the show? I’ve given you my opinion, now I’d like to hear yours. Join the discussion in the comments below.

Allan Mackey

About Allan Mackey

Allan Mackey is editor-in-chief of Production Ottawa, which, really, is too fancy a title. He also acts as show producer for Should You See It, making sure you get your answer in just about two minutes every time. He writes stuff and occasionally turns that stuff into movies. Keep being awesome!

What people are saying:

  1. Helen Weeden says:

    I’m sorry to say but we left at intermission.

    how many times does the point have to be spoken? It was so repetitive and boring hammering away on the same issue.
    Very slow scenes with too much sitting and talking. If OLT want to attract younger audiences then they should try and avoid those “beastly” old english plays.”really darling”

    • Production Ottawa Allan Mackey says:

      Thanks for your comment, Helen. I completely understand where you’re coming from. They did hammer it home quite a bit, especially in the first act. I think the second act was a fair bit lighter but I can’t fault you for the early exit if you really weren’t into it.

      I don’t know how broadly to classify “beastly” old English plays but some of them are very good and have stories that remain true and are engaging. Mr. Pim didn’t hit the mark for me, or for you it seems, but I imagine for some of OLT’s other patrons, they’ll enjoy it just fine.

  2. Chantale Plante says:

    As a long time volunteer of OLT and director/performer, I know the theatre works extremly hard to create a season for everyone. Not everything please everyone either. As well this particular season is different than all others. The reading committee read hundreds of plays that OLT did over 100 years to come up with this 10 play season representing all the decades. I don’t envy that job they have. It’s a tough tough road to hoe - especially the 100th season.. As well OLT doesn’t normally do plays this old! This play was the best out of the 1910s group. I trust you will find the rest of the season as the decades go forward, will show the variety the theatre had done over 100 years and i’m sure you will find something you like. In fact other than Noises Off in July, there are no more Englsih accents this season. The next play is the 50s and moving forward until now. Something for everyone is in this season. This particular one that represented the OLTs first decade, we knew would not be everyone’s taste, but again – it’s tough in that decade to find something that might not seem “dated” to a modern audience. We are representing the time - when OLT began. Next season you will see some new plays. Season will be announced this coming Sunday at the AGM. Stay tuned. Please keep coming out. There are some wonderful plays in this season and next .

    • Production Ottawa Allan Mackey says:

      Thanks for your comment, Chantale. I don’t envy the job of the season planners either. And I agree that finding something that would still hit after 100 years is no small feat. Not to mention, more than just finding a play from that decade, they needed to find something that would fit with the other plays they’d selected for a balanced mix. I still don’t think Mr. Pim hit the mark, for stated and other reasons, but as I said to Helen, I’m sure there are many who will like it just fine - in fact, both Patrick Langston and Iris Winston at the Capital Critics Circle spoke positively of it.

      One thing I found interesting is that this was the third “drawing room comedy” in a row. I’m eager for something a bit different and am looking forward to the rest of the season. There are more than one or two I’m really eager for. Love my Ottawa Little Theatre (which doesn’t mean I need to love everything they produce. :)

      Does Noises Off have English accents? Hm.

  3. Chantale Plante says:

    And I will add - when I read Mr Pim Passes By i fell in LOVE with the script - it’s simplicity and charm. I’m looking forward to see it.

  4. Chantale says:

    yup Noises off is the only other “british” If he uses accents. I am the only one doing Canadian!

Links to this article.

  1. [...] The Production Ottawa review of Mr. Pim Passes By Mr. Pim Passes by: A. A. Milne’s engaging incursion into… (Capital Critics Circle) Mr. Pim Passes by: Whimsical, delightful, perfect holiday… (Capital Critics Circle) The Tao of Pim (Visitorium) [...]

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