“Canada, It’s Complicated” is a comedy by Mary Walsh that talks about the difference between what is presented as Canadian history and what actually happened. My thoughts and a link to the youtube video after the break
(All images are from their own gallery)
I first heard about this production after listening to a recent episode of Roseanna Deerchild’s Unreserved on CBC Radio. Yes, I am 21 years old, and I listen to talk radio anytime I’m by myself in the car. I am basically an old woman in a young person’s body.
However, I am glad that I was listening because I overheard her interview with two of the cast members of Canada, It’s Complicated. Hearing them talk about how audiences received the show inspired me to attempt to buy tickets.
Unluckily for me, their tour passed through Vancouver in early November. Luckily for me, they had an entire taping of their show posted on YouTube. I have to admit the username of whoever posted it is not a cast member or production member from what I can tell. However, the production of the video seems like it was properly filmed as part of the performance so I’m not sure if by watching this I’m participating in some pirating or not.
Read the detailed review below, or skip to the tl;dr at the end of the post.
I don’t know about you, but to me, this show is entirely entertaining. From the very first scene I had the foundation of our nation is a big fat lie stuck in my head and now I want to sing it to everyone all the time.
Also, I found a lot of the jokes to be witty and clever. The writers are obviously quite talented (more talented than I could ever be). Louis Riel is hilarious! I don’t want to spoil it for you, in case you decide to watch it yourself, but even as a Metis person I didn’t really understand the whole fascination with Riel… and still don’t. But, at least now I think he’s super funny!
The other thing that I loved about this play was the talent of the performers. It was clear to me how much they were invested in their performances. Also, their ability to be so many characters and still be believable is great.
Finally, on a more political note, I loved how they never had the white actors playing Indigenous characters (except in scenes when they needed more bodies) because they already had two extremely talented Indigenous actors as part of the cast. It only seems natural to cast Indigenous people in a production about Canadian history. However, you’d be surprised how often non-Indigenous people are cast as us in pop culture.
First of all, there were some minor issues with the technicalities of the production like some moments where the microphones were too quiet. Also, I’m not an American Idol judge but there were some moments where the singing was just a little bit off to my layman ears. However, this small stuff can be forgiven based on the fact that this was a live performance and inevitably mistakes will happen.
However, there is one big issue that I have with this musical, and it is not so much about the musical itself as it is about the idea of it. Basically, I think it allows non-Indigenous, non-activists to be lazy in their participating in reconciliation. Okay, that’s a big claim, but hear me out.
In the interview on CBC’s Unreserved, performer Dakota Raymond acknowledges that it is mostly “older white people” that have come to see their show. Now, I understand that education and awareness is a big part of reconciliation. There are probably a lot of people who attend this show who really believe the big lies that the government and school system has taught Canadians and perhaps their mind was changed by the show, but I think they most likely weren’t.
Instead, I believe that this show was attended by older white folks who believe that by simply attending this show they are making a positive significant contribution to reconciliation. In some ways they are, an increasing awareness and education is always a good place to start. However, I hope that they aren’t attending this show and simply thinking to themselves:
“You know, they’re right. Our country’s foundation is a big fat lie. But, those Natives should still find some jobs and move off of reserves to participate in society.”
Of course, I’m exaggerating a little bit. Like I said, there are probably some people who have been fundamentally changed by this production, and there are some people who attend this show as part of a general movement towards decolonization in their everyday lives. Yet, I just worry about those who think that attending this show is enough.
“Canada, It’s Complicated” is hilarious, the songs are catchy and the performers are skilled. However, I challenge those who watch it to take it’s ideas and make sure they inform your everyday lives as well.
Those are my thoughts, what do you think? If you have the time watch the show below and let me know in the comments!