Tuesday, August 7, 2007

the time we kicked political ass, and lost... but maybe in the long-run we won anyway

1837: The Farmer's Revolt
by Rick Salutin and Theatre Passe Murraille

Ok, here's the thing. I'm a big nerd. A really, really, really big nerd. And I love nothing more than Canadian history. I'm pretty much in love with the War of 1812, can't read enough about the Conquest in 1760, and the Rebellion (no... Revolution!) of 1837 has always fascinated me. So I was stoked to read this play -- and in no way did it disappoint me. What a show! I would love to one-day see a production of it, because there's nothing quite so exciting to me as good theatre and good history coming together at once.

The best part about this play was reading Rick Salutin's production diary before reading the play. Because this play was a collective, it was interesting to read about the process of creating these characters and really making history come alive. The temptation to allow the rebels to win in the theatre version was something they really struggled with -- in the end they opted to stick closer to history than that, which is a shame, but it makes even more powerful the final line of the play. In response to the assertion that they rebels had lost, one of the condemned men at the gallows responds, "No! We haven't won yet!" The idea that the rebels who were hanged went out with that sense of positivity and pride is really what underscores the main project of this play, which is to celebrate our history and to find a way to revel in the progress even where it seems progress came too slowly.

To me, what is so interesting about the process behind this play is the near gender-less-ness of the characters. It seems that all the characters had been played by either gender, which I really like. In situations like military service, there was no public opportunity for women to work, but their labours at home have traditionally been what makes war possible. It was interesting to see this group of actors mount the production without regard for gender roles; it seems to bring to the forefront the role of women in wartime, and moves them from the private sphere, politicizing their acts. Remember that the woman who fed the rebels was in as much danger of persecution as the rebel fighters themselves. This is fitting way to deal with the situation without 'faking' history -- Mackenzie is Mackenzie, whether played by a woman or a man.

In the end, the project of this play is to make Canadian history interesting, exciting, and worth watching. I would certainly have to say that the mission is accomplished.

1 comment:

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