by Lynn on May 9, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

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

Written and performed by Michelle Thrush

Directed by Michelle Thrush

Lighting and scenic director, Sandi Somers

Composer, Sandy Scofield

Sound by JP Lord Sound Design

Michelle Thrush starts off telling us the poignant story of her rocky beginnings with two alcoholic parents and all that entails and how she survived, but the play and production take a sharp, disconcerting turn into stand-up comedy for some reason, changing the tone and attitude, confusing the point.

Michelle Thrush is full of stories. She is from the Cree First Nations. She grew up in Calgary, the daughter of two alcoholic parents. She was raised by her father and she says he never missed a day of work because of his drinking. He instilled in her a good work ethic, a moral code and a sense of decency.

Sometimes she was the only ‘brown girl’ in class. She recounts how a school teacher treated her with disdain and condescension. One sucks air hearing about it. But Michelle Thrush tells the story without bitterness or a need for revenge. She gets a crush on a boy in her class but is warned by her elders about hanging out with ‘white boys.’

Through the storytelling Michelle Thrush has a gentle, almost self-deprecating way, but never defeatist. The humour is understated. Karen Hines has directed this with a delicate hand, keeping movement to only where it seems necessary.

And then something bizarre happens. The quiet spoken but sprightly  Michelle Thrush is ‘take over’ by a stooped, challenging, in your face character who wears a red cape that says “Super Koo Kum” on the back. (“Kokum” means ‘grandmother’ in Cree).

She paces in front of the audience. She asks that the light be put up. She says with a ‘harruph’ that the audience is all white (the ladies behind me who are First Nations roar with delight). She riffs with confidence. “Super Koo Kum” relates how she rented a car to come to Native Earth on Dundas St. and was shocked that the voice of the woman on the GPS was a white woman and she didn’t trust her with the directions.  ‘Super Koo Kum” called the car rental and demanded a GPS with a woman’s voice who was First Nations. “Super Koo Kum” then hauled three “volunteers” out of the audience to help her out. She was going to do a rendition of an Aretha Franklin song (RESPECT) that was funny but somehow disingenuous here. The volunteers were backup. When it was finished there was applause. “Super Koo Kum” then looked at the audience again and praised them for their diversity and inclusion.

Ok, I’m confused. Either she’s chiding the audience for being ‘white’ or she’s praising them for being diverse and inclusive. Which is it? And who is this? “Super Koo Kum” can’t possibly be a trickster because she’s not twisting up the character, she seems to be twisting up the audience. Why? The whole tone of the piece has changed. Do we not consider the seriousness of Michelle Thrush’s story because of this stand-up comedienne character because having them live side-by-side confuses the message? The press information says that this is about story-telling and bouffon (a satiric kind of clown work). I don’t think so. Perhaps “Super Koo-Kum” needs her own show. I think she’s misplace and confusing in this one.

Native Earth and Nightwood Theatre present:

Opened: May 8, 2019.

Closes: May 12, 2019.

Running Time: 1 hour.

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