CONTACT: Jeff Culbert, , 519-645-1130, 519-317-5697,


“a tale of romance, feuds, conspiracy, and murder, navigated with energy and charm …
illustrates why the legend of the Donnellys is so compelling” - Joff Schmidt, CBC Manitoba

A solo performance, with songs, written and performed by Jeff Culbert
Directed by Jayson McDonald , Produced by Ausable Theatre (London Ontario)

The Donnelly Sideshow is a true story of romance, faction fighting and murder set in and around Lucan Ontario (just outside of London), where writer-performer Jeff Culbert grew up. Five members of the Donnelly family were brutally murdered in their homes in 1880, and over 130 years later, the story continues to inspire artists and scholars and to fascinate the general public. Many people know the family as “ The Black Donnellys ”, because of the 1954 novel by Thomas P Kelley, but the term is now considered to be derogatory in Lucan.

One of the key characters in the Donnelly story is Johnny O'Connor , the 13-year-old boy who hid under a bed during the attack and witnessed the whole thing. In The Donnelly Sideshow , Jeff Culbert plays a grown-up Johnny O'Connor, who is out to tell the true story of the Donnellys. (Johnny was also a Lucan boy; in fact Jeff and Johnny grew up on the same street in the village.)

In the spirit of his mentor and hero Will Donnelly, Johnny doesn't mind using a little showmanship, and in addition to the storytelling and dramatization, he sings four original songs about the feud. And in spite of the gruesome core of the story, he tries to tell it with good humour and spirit, because “you gotta keep up your ent'usiasm” or you're finished. He is out to entertain, but also to find whatever form of justice he can salvage, seeing how the legal justice system failed the Donnellys so badly.

Critical Reactions to The Donnelly Sideshow

“ A satisfying show made great by its historical relevance”
Dan McKechnie, Vue Weekly, Edmonton

“a tale of romance, feuds, conspiracy, and murder, navigated with energy and charm … illustrates why the legend of the Donnellys is so compelling”
Joff Schmidt, CBC Manitoba

“Culbert tells his tale with real conviction – you can see the audience sitting forward in their seats as he draws us in – an inspired storyteller”
Colin Maclean, Edmonton Sun

“draws the audience in and does a fine job of detailing the fascinating events”
Wendy Burke, Winnipeg Free Press

“Jeff Culbert has one of the most winning stage presences I've ever seen …The script is simple and clear, the songs are catchy and clever, and the jokes are subtly delivered and well-timed.”  
Clara Madrenas, Theatre in London

“Culbert is an engaging, endearing storyteller and a killer guitar player.. fascinating subject matter and catchy original tunes - when the lights went up, I found myself wanting to hear more.”
Jen Zoratti, Uptown

“Inspired … It quietly observes the madness of men … Culbert has an oozing passion for the subject. Directed by Jayson McDonald with minute attention paid to the presentation - including Culbert hilariously etching out the neighbouring houses in the air - The Donnelly Sideshow , revisits the horrendous story and we hear just what Johnny saw.” 
Kathy Rumleski, London Free Press

“I thought the script, performance and interpretation were absolutely brilliant. And this is coming from someone who has studied and researched the Donnellys for some 50 years! What a riveting and gut-wrenching performance!” – Dan Brock, historian

“I loved the show. It was the best telling of the story I have ever seen.”
Laura Garner, Curator, Lucan Area Heritage & Donnelly Museum

“The Donnellys' murders are an entertainer's gold mine. Lucky for us Culbert still finds gold in them thar hills.” 
Donald D'Haene, Beat Magazine, London