The Whirlpool
adapted and directed by Brian Quirt
from the novel by Jane Urquhart

"Director Brian Quirt, in adapting the story for the stage, not only remains faithful to the esthetic spirit of the novel, he uses its ethereal quality to create a theatrical work of haunting beauty."
- Vit Wagner, The Toronto Star

We created a theatrical adaptation of Jane Urquhart's novel The Whirlpool by working with a choreographer, a composer and a company of actors to find a distinct and innovative way to bring this acclaimed book to the stage. The process took three years and four workshops, and was a continual delight to work on. "One of the most original dramas in years," wrote Maclean's Magazine when the play premiered in Toronto in 2000.

In Niagara Falls in 1889, Fleda and her husband David are to build a house on a height of land above the Niagara River whirlpool. David is visited in his dreams by Laura Secord. Fleda's dreams reside in the woods surrounding the whirlpool where she first encounters Patrick - a poet who enters their landscape and changes their destiny.

Meanwhile, in Niagara Falls, the young widow who runs the local funeral home is struggling out of her mourning and coping with her strange silent child. It's summer, the season of reckless stunts and river casualties, and as these five lives become entangled by the whirlpool, darker and more sinister currents gain momentum and ultimately release them from their obessions.

Published by Playwrights Canada Press 2001; ISBN 0-88754-611-0. Contact Playwrights Canada Press at


Production History

Tarragon Theatre, Toronto
February 23 to April 2, 2000
Directed by Brian Quirt
Choreography by Julia Sasso
Featuring Christine Brubaker, Tracey Ferencz, Martin Julien, Andrew Massingham, Jordan Pettle
Design by Dany Lyne and Bonnie Beecher
Music by Justin Haynes
Assistant Director: Naomi Campbell

Special thanks to Jane Urquhart for her beautiful novel and her generosity in allowing us to bring it to life on the stage.View Production photos...

A student production of an abridged version of The Whirlpool was presented by Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic High School as part of the 2009 Sears Drama Festival, directed and choreographed by student Melissa Rumble.

Martin Julien and Tracey Ferencz.
photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

"How to fit the mighty Niagara into a theatre? Quirt didn't have a million-dollar budget at his disposal, so trucking in tons of water was never an option. Instead, he has been forced to be uniquely innovative--and the result is one of the most original dramas in years.

In a nutshell, Quirt's solution is to fuse dance and drama in a new way. Quirt...keeps his actors talking while -- with the artful help of modern-dance choreographer Julia Sasso and composer Justin Haynes -- he has them whirl, contort, squirm, fall and dance their way through a maelstrom of relationships.

Guided by Sasso's choreography, the actors move with the uncanny waywardness and grace of objects being manipulated by powerful and complex currents. Their contortions fracture and emphasize their speeches in strange ways, giving the effect of a new language struggling to be born...The Whirlpool points, excitingly, in fresh directions."

- John Bemrose, Maclean's Magazine