Review: TRUDEAU and the FLQ

by Lynn on June 7, 2015

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, Distillery District, Toronto, Ont.

Written and directed by Michael Hollingsworth
Props by Brad Harley
Costumes by Astrid Janson
Sound by Jake Blackwood
Starring: Aurora Brown
Richard Alan Campbell
Cyrus Faird
Mac Fyfe
Craig Lauzon
Linda Prystawska
Michaela Washburn

Trudeau and the FLQ (1963-70) gets the VideoCabaret biting, satiric treatment as it covers this really sobering time in our country’s history.

The Story. Trudeau and the FLQ is part of the huge series of plays by Michael Hollingsworth called The History of the Village of the Small Huts that covers the whole history of Canada from the beginning of its being settled to almost the present.

The play follows the simultaneous rise of Pierre Elliott Trudeau from University professor teaching Plato to becoming Prime Minister of Canada and the FLQ (Front de Libération du Quebec) from 1963-1970. Trudeau envisioned a Canada not based on ethnicity, language or creed. He was a true Federalist and did not consider giving Quebec any distinct rights—not to language or anything else. He thought if one wanted to speak French in Victoria that was as reasonable as wanting to speak it in Quebec.

The FLQ was an anarchistic/political group that wanted Quebec for Quebecers and thought the way to get it was through violence and mischief—blowing up mailboxes for example. They kidnap James Cross—a British trade attaché. They assassinated Pierre Laporte at that time the deputy premiere in the Quebec legislature. Trudeau instituted the War Measures Act to combat them. It was ugly. The play ends with Trudeau meeting a young, flighty hippie named Margaret (Maggie) Sinclair while on vacation and that paves the way to Trudeau and Levesque (1971-1982).

The Production. I’ve often talked about this spunky, smart company that is known as VideoCabaret. Its founders are Michael Hollingsworth and Deanne Taylor. Hollingsworth is the writer/director. Their work is geared toward an audience raised on TV and rock and roll. Deliberately cheesy music underscores each scene. The playing area is a black box. Scenes are short, no more than a minute and usually less. The make-up, costumes (Astrid Janson), props Brad Harley-Shadowland Theatre) and performance style is out-sized and exaggerated. But Hollingsworth’s handling of the material is short, sharp and biting. With a leer, side-long look, or scowl we get the sense of the double-dealing, backroom backstabbing that is Canadian politics.

Each actor plays several characters. Each performance of each character is distinct. The ensemble is impressive; Aurora Browne is a stiff-solomn Queen Elizabeth, Jean Marchand (you read that right), FLQ Suzanne and a dippy-hippy, wispy-voiced Maggie Sinclair; Richard Alan Campbell plays among others, René Lévesque with flair and an ever-present cigarette, often with a long gangling ash; Cyrus Faird is FLQ Paul, a ringleader for violence; Craig Lauzon plays James Cross, among others, with dignity and trepidation when he’s kidnapped; Linda Prystawksa plays FLQ Jacques, a reporter, a smarmy waitress, Premier Bourassa (yes, you read that right too), all with her distinctive style; Michaela Washburn plays Yvonne, a bored student who gets caught up in the politics, Prime Minister Lester Pearson (yup) a hippy, a disco woman, among others, again with style. But Mac Fyfe as Trudeau has to be singled out. He has perfected that purr of a voice, the nuance, the sliding of consonants so that nothing sounds harsh. Fyfe has nailed the body-language of Trudeau, the arrogance, confidence and huge charm. And of course he has the Trudeau shrug down pat. Terrific performances all.

I wish that all Canadian history, or any history for that matter, was as clear, to the point, funny and perceptively realized as Trudeau and the FLQ.

VideoCabaret presents:

Run: plays to June 21, 2015.
Cast: 7; 4 men, 3 women
Running Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes.

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