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Mercury Players bring Newfoundland heroine to life in ‘Tempting Providence’ in Duncan

“If you want to have a laugh, get your heart strings plucked…then this is the play for you.”
Sylvia Swift and Genevieve Charbonneau rehearse a scene from Tempting Providence (photo by Mony Vesseur)

Just three weeks before the opening of their upcoming play, Tempting Providence by Robert Chafe, Duncan’s Mercury Players had to find another performance venue.

Concerned about possible issues due to the leaking roof of the Mercury Theatre building, the owner has required that the building be vacated immediately. But the show will go on — at the Duncan United Church’s Heritage Hall.

Tempting Providence tells the true story of another community, Daniel’s Harbour, on Canada’s east coast. Residents faced weather, disease, isolation, work accidents, extreme poverty and lack of healthcare — all without government assistance or modern conveniences. Life was tough and survival depended on helping one another. Enter nurse Myra Grimsley, newly recruited from Britain, bringing her desperately needed medical and midwifery skills to the hard-working people of isolated coastal settlements, in the Dominion of Newfoundland.

She travels by foot, boat, or in harsh winters, by dogsled to birth their children, pull their teeth, fix their broken limbs, and help them through illness. Some remain stubbornly superstitious while others are willing to learn from “the nurse”. They teach her too.

Mateo Tomlinson who plays Myra’s husband, Angus Bennett, said, “If you want to have a laugh, get your heart strings plucked, and get a little slice of Newfoundland folk history, then this is the play for you.”

“I love the way it handles themes of cooperation, embracing differences and upholding moral values.”

Tempting Providence is a powerful and exhilarating ensemble piece that connects us with the history of our fellow Canadians and helps us to understand but, more importantly, feel what they experienced, say producers of the show. It also introduces us to an extraordinary, socially dedicated woman who received many Canadian and British accolades, and came to call “The Rock” her home.

Actor Genevieve Charbonneau, who plays Bennett, describes her as “very strong and I think what’s compelling about her is that she’s quite young and she’s a woman but she demands respect and the attention of the people that she encounters.”

Joining Charbonneau and Tomlinson on stage are Sylvia Swift and Rob Foell who play multiple characters.

Director Rien Vesseur states the play is “both light and dramatic, funny and tragic. It excites me because it is so well written that it allows me to live Nurse Grimsley’s life vicariously for a while. Books are great, movies too, but for me the theatre is the only medium that makes the experience so intense it becomes entirely unforgettable.”

Tempting Providence runs Feb. 2, 3, 10 and 12 at 7:30 p.m. with Saturday and Sunday matinees Feb. 4, 5, 11 and 12 at 2:30 p.m. at Duncan United Church Hall at 246 Ingram St.. Tickets are $22 for general admission and $17 for students/seniors and are available online at, in person from Ten Old Books (near the Duncan Garage cafe) and at the door.