Tuesday, August 7, 2007

the last play i shall write about today, praise jesus / allah / santa / marks'n'spencers

The Occupation of Heather Rose
by Wendy Lill

I would say, without a doubt, that the character of Heather Rose is the meatiest, most tantalizing, most desirable role for a young female actress working in Canada today. The Occupation of Heather Rose is a one-woman tour-de-force of voice that id demanding, draining, and one can only imagine, deeply fulfilling. The play has been remounted as a multi-person cast (and I want to say a film, but I could be fabricating that), but I can't imagine that's possible without losing the powerful sense of isolation the one-woman aspect of the play provides. In the end, that is what this play is really about -- how one deals with isolation, how one reaches their limit, and how one learns to go home again.

Heather Rose is a young white woman of middle class guilt stock who decides to pack up everything after nursing school and go to work of a reserve up norther. Heather is not prepared for anything -- not the isolation, not the health problems, not the problems with accessing resources, nor with her own resiliency (or lack thereof) in the face of trauma. For Heather, life is one big adventure and this is simply another challenge for her to overcome, like getting straight As or pleasing her parents.

Heather is isolated from the community right away when, immediately upon arriving, she expresses gratitude for the fact that this is a dry reserve. When every other white person working on the reserve is drunk most of the time, she loses friends before she even begins by being simply too sheltered to be able to view things accurately. Heather starts out full of a wide-eyed idealism, but before long she succumbs to the drink. Where at the play's opening she is disgusted by the people who have given up on the natives and refer to them as a "broken people," by the end she is one of the chorus of voices condemning them to a life of uncertainty and failure.

As Heather becomes increasingly isolated with her friends leaving and mail so slow from home, she turns more towards the bottle and to the man she previously thought of as so unsuited to herself. Hitting this 'rock bottom' allows Heather to see that she must return home. She can't understand why the natives don't want to hear about her Scottish history, and doesn't understand why no one cares about her or where she comes from. In her outburst she fails to realize how disposable her kind has been -- and in turn, how disposable she is proving herself to be. There is no point in getting to know her as experience dictates that she will be gone soon. The silence echos loudly from both sides.

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