Sir John A. Comes to Life Today
by Jeff Mahoney,
The Spectator Hamilton
The Hamilton Spectator - Saturday, November
If only Michael Carl ONeil could do for some
of our present-day politicians what he is doing for Sir John
Bring them to life.
ONeil is a mime and as such has a natural fellow-feelings
for things that cant speak. So when he thought about the
statue of Sir John A. Macdonald in Gore Park and its colourful
history, he was curious about what would happen if that statue
were to walk off its pedestal and mingle with the traffic.
So he made that hypothesis part of his busking act.
Today, on the 103rd anniversary of the unveiling of
the statue in Hamilton, ONeil will bring his mute characterization
of our first prime minister to the Public Hanging 97 art
show in the Hamilton Eaton Centre.
He has taken his Sir John A. Macdonald through much
of the country in the year since he has built it into his mime
I get many different reactions. One guy in Halifax
gave me the finger. He said, Im French-Canadian and
we dont like Macdonald.
But another guy came up to me and hugged me
around the shoulders and said what I was doing was wonderful.
ONeil has done his Macdonald statue bit in Hamilton,
Ontario Place in Toronto, Kingston, Windsor, Orillia and even
at theng of the Confederation Bridge between Prince Edward
Island and New Brunswick.
It takes him more than two hours to apply the makeup,
prosthetics (nose and chin) and wig that transform his head into
the likeness of Sir John A., with a complexion of stone. And
he has a costume to complete the illusion.
He starts his routine by standing stone still on a
kind of makeshift pedestal.
People walk up and think Im an actual
statue. Then Ill wiggle a finger or something and they
stand back and wait to watch the next victim for a laugh.
As his character takes on more life, ONeil tries
to give an impression of how Macdonald would react to todays
society, with a lot of stunned expressions, humour and social
commentary tossed in.
ONeil explains that the Hamilton statue of Sir
John A. Macdonald was the first in Canada. And it has had quite
It was indirectly response for killing the fire chief
in Hamilton in the early part of this century.
They were racing to a call and somehow the fire
chief flew out of the wagon and hit his head on the statue and
They moved the statue after that. It had
been in the middle of the street.
ONeil also makes the Queen Victoria statue come
to life. That routine he uses mostly on international audiences.
He spends a good portion of his time in places like Singapore,
Thailand and England, following a kind of buskers circuit.
He is thinking of adding some new characters to the
act George Washington, for instance.
ONeil/Macdonald will be at the Public Hanging
97 on the third floor of the Hamilton Eaton Centre today
from noon to 4:30 p.m.
For more information, see ONeils web site