This production is the second staging of a 1988 set of two 1-act plays which are part of the 21 1-act play cycle, The History of the Village of Small Huts, performed by Video Cabaret, a troupe that uses tableau and total darkness to give essentially soundbite snippets of Canadian history. I can honestly say I have never seen anything like it.
I have long believed Canada has a more interesting history than what I was taught in elementary and high school but I was obsessed with American history at the time (due to my father) and, even if Canada’s history was kind of interesting, I didn’t absorb enough of in school to care. So though I have read a little in adulthood about Riel, some of this history of Riel and the Northwest Rebellion was still unfamiliar to me.
These plays take a revisionist, darkly comic and cynical view of Canadian history which is a view that I suspect many of us younger people would share if we knew the history of country better. What better way than going to see some plays, eh?
The most impressive thing about the performance is twofold: the 7 actors have to switch roles constantly and that means they are constantly changing costumes off-stage in mere moments. It takes a talented group of actors and stage hands to pull this off successfully.
Though the tone is sometimes uneven – specifically: the first play is noticeably funnier than the darker second play – this is highly worth your time and seeing it has made me want to see the sequel plays (on now) and the rest of the series (which, at the time I wrote this, was supposed to continue every year).
These plays are as good a way as engaging with Canadian history as you’ll find until someone makes some good movies or TV shows. (Which has yet to happen, to the best of my knowledge.)