Review: TALES OF AN URBAN INDIAN

by Lynn on May 7, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

On a moving Barrie Transit Bus, in Barrie, Ontario. (you read that right).

Written by Darrell Dennis

Directed by Herbie Barnes

Production Manager and Technical Director: Beth Elliot

Cast: Craig Lauzon

A look from the inside of life as an Indigenous man full of heartache, humour and hope.

The Story. Simon Douglas grew up on a reserve in British Columbia. His father was not around. His mother and grandmother brought him up. His grandmother instilled her wisdom in his everyday life. While he says he never went to a residential school and was not taken from his family, life was rocky for him.

His mother had a relationship with a man and they moved with Simon to Vancouver. Simon had to leave his grandmother, his friends and his comfort zone. What followed was feelings of being alone, isolated and unhappy because he didn’t like his mother’s partner. The relationship didn’t work out and Simon and his mother returned to the reserve.

What follows is a litany of problems and disappointments: drugs, alcoholism, unemployment, trouble with the law and dropping out of school, etc.  And while what happens to Simon seems like every cliché one hears about Indigenous life playwright Darrell Dennis addresses this too. He is educated by his grandmother in the ways of life and being a good person. He is loved by a girlfriend who won’t accept his giving up and taking the easy way out. She never gave in to despair as an Indigenous woman and doesn’t expect him to either.  There is hope in this story and self-deprecating humour

 The Production. It takes place on a bus that moves through the streets and surrounding areas of Barrie, Ontario. We are all on the bus when it makes a stop at the bus station to pick up Simon (Craig Lauzon). He is clean-shaven, casually dressed and wears a back pack. He takes out 8 x 10 glossy pictures that he arranges along the top part of the bus where ads might be. Some are the typical Indigenous man in profile with headgear looking serious. There are pictures of his grandmother and friends at moving points in the story, just to put a face to a name.

Simon as beautifully played by Craig Lauzon is often full of despair but not self-pitying. He has a wry sense of humour. He looks each person he talks to right in the eye. The listener is never made to feel uncomfortable, but is invited in to hear a story that is important to tell. Simon paces up and down the bus, the better to look us all in the eye, but the movement is never without reason.

Director Herbie Barnes knows how to modulate the movement of Simon so that the action does seem static, but also knows how to achieve moments of great stillness. It’s a story that is often been told, but not as personably as this telling. The details are not cliché in this telling, they are painfully human and real. At time Simon succumbs to the taking the easy way out to deal with his situation. Often he gets up and tries again. That is one of the many beauties of the play and the production.

Simon gives us a final comment and bids us good bye as the back doors of the bus open and he is gone into the dark night. We are then driven back to our original stop. I would like to have given that young man, Craig Lauzon (and Simon) applause for an insightful performance of a play that unfortunately is as true and troubling now as it was when it first was done years ago.

 Comment. It’s true respect for the work of Arkady Spivak, the resourceful Artistic Producer of Talk is Free Theatre, that got me to drive to Barrie, Ont. through torrential rain and seemingly hurricane force winds to see a play, on a bus. As always, it was well worth the trip.

 Presented by Talk if Free Theatre.

Opened: May 4, 2018.

Closes: May 17, 2018.

Running Time: 90 minutes.

 

www.tift.ca

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