The Queen of Queen Street

By (author): Maureen Hunter

Bertha Rand, Winnipeg’s Cat Lady, was a familiar figure in the news; many knew her as the mad woman who lived in squalour with over fifty felines. In her tiny house on Queen Street, Bertha took in sick and abandoned cats, battling her neighbours and city hall to save them, taking her cause to the media. In The Queen of Queen Street, Maureen Hunter delves into Bertha Rand’s tragic life of poverty and deprivation to bring us a richly layered drama of one woman’s will to survive, and a universal story of hope and strength.


Maureen Hunter

Maureen Hunter is one of Canada’s most accomplished playwrights. Her work has been produced from coast to coast in Canada, in theatres large and small, in the U.S. and the U.K., and by CBC and BBC Radio. She has been short-listed for two Governor General’s Awards and two Dora Mavor Moore Awards (Outstanding New Play). Her play Sarah Ballenden premiered at Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre in April 2017 under the direction of Steven Schipper. RMTC also premiered Vinci, Atlantis, Transit of Venus and Beautiful Lake Winnipeg. Transit of Venus became the first Canadian play to be produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company. An opera version, for which she wrote the libretto, premiered at Manitoba Opera in 2007. Other plays include Wild Mouth, premiered by Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre in 2008, and Footprints on the Moon, premiered by Agassiz Theatre, Winnipeg, in 1988. Footprints received its European premiere at the Finborough Theatre in London in May 2017.


“ The play deals with poverty, both physical and emotional. With the pain of loss, the search for love and warmth. And most of all, it’s an extended meditation—a very poetic meditation at times—on the nature of madness. It’s not about what you might expect, especially when you remember that the playwright, Maureen Hunter, used to be a journalist. I admired very much her first two plays— Poor Uncle Ernie in His Covered Cage and Footprints on the Moon. There was some poetry there in the writing and a lot of feeling, but both were resolutely rooted in the naturalistic tradition. They told their stories in straightforward, traditional ways. Bertha Rand’s story could have been told that way, it could have been really a staged documentary. But instead, Maureen Hunter did something much more difficult: she’s found a way to get inside the mind of a woman who was almost certainly mad. She begins with Bertha in the Selkirk Mental Hospital in 1968. She shows us the nutty old lady of the legend, the one it’s pretty easy to stay distanced from. Then she introduces Alison, a young woman inmate who has attempted suicide and who won’t talk to anyone. She’s fascinated by Bertha and her unwillingness to give in. She begins to experience Bertha’s life herself. And so we see not the crotchety old woman, but a fresh young girl. It’s quite a revelation. We see her in Crystal City, Manitoba, playing with her invalid sister. She collects her first cat. But gradually, this Alison/Bertha becomes more and more detached from reality. She also ages almost imperceptibly—and we age with her. We share her confusion and her loneliness. We understand at the most basic level how a cat could fill the holes in a life.” —CBC Radio


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Excerpts & Samples ×
Bertha: A cat is a miracle, that’s what I believe. Lights up the house, like—electricity. First you have nothing but candles, and kerosene lamps, and you stumble around in the dark, banging your toes. Straining your eyes. Then you take a cat in your lap and—snap! Revelation! Beat. So. That’s it, then, that’s settled. A house, and a cat. That’s my future right there—sprawled across my knee like a map. Shift to Queen Street. Autumn, late 1960s. The lights peppering the stage begin to move, sway, swirl. What’s that? What’s happening? Picks up the cat, rises, turns upstage. And what’s this? Another cat? And another, and another and another and—and they all want to be with me! Well. Never thought of this, never thought of being—popular. Oh, just look. Beautiful, did you ever in your life see anything so…hungry, though. Why are they all so hungry? Why, these cats are starving! That’s people for you. Oh yes! That’s the milk of human kindness. Well, don’t you worry, kitty-cats. You’ve come to the right place now. You’ve found your way to the arms of the queen of Queen Street!

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96 Pages
8.5in * 5.5in * .25in


January 01, 1998


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DRAMA / Canadian

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