by Lynn on March 21, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the AKI Studio, 585 Dundas St. E, Toronto, Ont,.

Written and performed by Meegwun Fairbrother

Co-created and directed by Jack Grinhaus

Set by Hans Saefkow

Lighting by Melissa Joakim

Projection designers, Andy Moro and Melissa Joakim

Sound by Marc Merialäinen

A moving journey to the truth for an Ojibwe man in a beautiful production.

The Story. Brendan is an idealistic Conservative young man who is part white, part Ojibwe. He is sent by Aboriginal Affairs of the Conservative government to a reserve to talk to Virginia Baptiste, an Aboriginal woman seeking a claim as a survivor of the residential schools. His purpose is to discredit her. Along the way he discovers the truth about Virginia’s situation, himself, his family and his place in the Ojibwe world.

The Production. Director Jack Grinhaus has created a shimmering, meaningful, sensitive production that evokes the spirituality and hard lived world of the indigenous people. A round disk with what looks like a ceremonial design of many pointed stars stands on the stage. Various shapes and patterns are projected on it thanks to Andy Moro and Melissa Joakim’s projection designs. There is another disk behind it. The emotionless, cold-toned voice of then Prime Minister Stephen Harper is heard in the haze issuing a formal, public apology to the Indigenous First Nations regarding the government’s handling of residential schools.

A man enters the space carrying a disk over his head. His body sways with the weight of it, both literal and figurative. He also dances gracefully with it giving full attention to its ceremonial nature. This is Brendan played with grace, sensitivity and clarity by Meegwun Fairbrother.

Fairbrother plays many characters including Brendan as an idealistic, curious, kind man, to Virginia’s drunk, opportunistic, joker of a brother. Each character is distinct, quickly created and absolutely clear. Brendan discovers his true roots and confirms that in a moving phone-call to his mother, Brendan then takes up a traditional drum, stands in the white haze of Melissa Joakim’s lighting and sings a traditional Ojibwe song  I assume, that is so full of anguish and pain you get the sense that Fairbrother is dredging it all up from his toes. It is both chilling and heart-breaking. It says everything about Brendan and his discoveries about himself and his new world.

Comment. The late, great Iris Turcott, dramaturg-extraordinaire, asked Meegwun Fairbrother to write a response to Stephen Harper’s apology regarding the residential schools. Fairbrother says that he could not find a word in Ojibwe that meant “sorry.” “Isitwendam” meaning “an understanding” is the closest. Fairbrother has taken his anger and hurt experienced as an Indigenous man and along with his co-creator Jack Grinhaus fashioned a piece of theatre that is full of forgiveness, compassion, understanding, and grace. This is quite a feat considering the blatant disrespect that was focused on the Indigenous people from the other side. This is a terrific piece of theatre.

 Native Earth presents a Bound to Create Theatre Production.

Opened: March 20, 2019.

Closes: March 31, 2019.

Running time: 75 minutes.

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