Review by Judith Robinson
Playwright Michael Hollingsworth’s cycle of Canadian history plays are a national treasure. He’s as deserving of accolades as Pierre Burton for his undying determination to preserve our nation’s colourful past. VideoCabaret/Soulpepper’s Scandal and Rebellion, now playing in at the Young Centre in Toronto is perhaps his best work so far.
As in Confederation & Riel, the first half of this dramatic segment, Richard Clarkin stole the show. The tall, mercurial actor has a strong stage presence that emanates right out to the audience. Not only was he brilliant as Sir John A. Macdonald, but his role as Cree War Chief, Wandering Spirit, was stunning and magical.
Wandering Spirit was an angry and bitter man, but Clarkin’s portrayal made him seem sympathetic. Clarkin brought dignity, and a groundedness, to each character he portrayed. It’s obvious that Hollingsworth, both as a writer and as a director, has a great deal of respect for, and understanding of, Indigenous cultures. Kat Letwin did a great job of fine-tuning the subtleties of Plains Cree Chief, Big Bear. Even though she was a young woman, playing an older man, she oozed wisdom with every line. This was no stereotypical caricature, but a living breathing Native portrayal.
Michaela Washburn’s, Louis Riel, was believable as a lost soul and wandering spirit. His fascination with, and revulsion to Catholicism, and his journey toward finding his own spirituality, were effectively conveyed. Washburn’s Riel was three dimensional and haunting. A fine symmetry is created between Hollingworth’s writing, the cast’s fine acting and the intricate patterns of Adam Barrett’s videos and Andrew Dollar’s lighting. Without the technical effects, this show would not have the same reach and impact.
Confederation Part II: Scandal & Rebellion, a fine celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday will be playing at Soulpepper’s Young Centre in Toronto until August 19th. Don’t miss it.