Sir John A: Acts of a Gentrified Ojibway Rebellion,:Well executed but wordy!!

Reviewed by Iris Winston

 

Herbie Barnes, Katie Ryerson,
darrell Denis
d

 

The spark for Sir John A: Acts of a Gentrified Ojibway Rebellion, says playwright Drew Hayden Taylor, was “the Aboriginal equivalent of an urban legend.”

So, with his experience as a standup comic, as well as accolades as a playwright, at the fore, he delivers a road-trip comedy about an attempt to retrieve a medicine bundle now exhibited in a British museum. The method will be arranging an exchange with the bones of Canada’s first Prime Minister — to be dug up from Sir John A’s final resting place in Kingston.

Along the way from their homes on the reserve to Kingston, Bobby Rabbit and Hugh, the friend he strong-arms into accompanying him, pick up Anya, a young white woman, penniless and fresh from a romantic breakup, and offer her a ride home to Kingston. Thus, the door is opened for the polemic portion of the script as Bobby speechifies and Anya offers glib analysis in response to his arguments. Meanwhile, Hugh is more concerned with imagining himself as a rock singer, an astronaut or a great scientist, although he did not graduate from high school.

 

Slotted into gaps in the road trip are flashbacks to Sir John A’ Macdonald describing his treatment of First Nations peoples from a colonization perspective. Well presented as they are by Martin Julien in the NAC world premiere of the show, the result is still weighted down in wordiness.

 

Performances, particularly from Herbie Barnes as Hugh, are strong and the production quality is uniformly well executed. Jim Millan’s direction delivers smooth transitions and Martin Conboy’s lighting, combined with Nick Bottomley’s projections, are highly effective in conveying the sense of driving down the road. But it is such a long road and such a tiring drive. The script would benefit from judicious cutting and decluttering. In its current format, it remains a work in progress, in part because it is just too long and in part because of the uncomfortable pairing of comedy and polemic.

 

Director: Jim Millan

Set and costumes: Anna Treusch

Lighting: Martin Conboy

Projections: Nick Bottomley

Composer: Moe Berg

 

Cast:

Hugh………………………………..Herbie Barnes

Bobby………………………………Darrell Dennis

Sir John A. Macdonald……………..Martin Julien

Anya………………………………..Katie Ryerson

 


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