A world premiere workshop performance
Fight On! Part 1
An Account of the Scintillating True Life Adventures in the Canadian North West Mounted Police of Francis Jeffrey Dickens
Written and directed by Guy Sprung
With additional sardonic, ironic and iconic commentary by First Nations’ writer Drew Hayden Taylor
Tuesday, April 10 – Sunday, April 22, 2018
“This land is made up of the dust of our ancestors’ bones.”
— Mary Deleary, Anishinaabe Elder
Montréal, March 26th, 2018- Fostering Infinithéàtre’s ongoing mandate of reflecting and exploring life in the 21st century, Artistic Director Guy Sprung examines Canada’s ignoble past in this first part of the creative development of Fight On!, playing from April 10-22 at Espace Knox. This cross-cultural, multilingual, meta-Brechtian romp set during the late 19th century is the company’s most ambitious production to date; incorporating masks, puppetry, multimedia, dance, buffoonery, and authentic, embarrassing historical pronouncements. Fight On! Part 1 will be performed mainly in English, with significant characters speaking French, Cree, Blackfoot and Mohawk, with English surtitles. There will be talkbacks after each performance, plus invited guests on Thursdays. Trigger warning: satirical colonial views might cause self-conscious laughter.
More than ever, this is a time of increased recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ contributions, especially in the arts. Locally, theatres and events extend territorial acknowledgments before shows, Rezolution Pictures’s Rumble continues to rack up honours, there is a Juno award for Indigenous music, the MMFA and McCord Museums exhibit critical and block-buster successes, Infinithéâtre’s own Write-On-Q! competition actively solicits Indigenous playwrights, Lara Kramer Dance is invited globally, and the Montreal First Peoples Festival is burgeoning… And yet, says Sprung, “Too many Canadians know little or nothing about the colonization of their country, which has resulted, inevitably, in present-day conflicts. This lack of knowledge has serious consequences for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people, and for Canada as a whole.”
Following the death of his famous novelist father, Francis Jeffery Dickens (known as the Christmas Carol baby) arrives in Canada in 1874 with all the prejudices and presumptions of a white colonist/settler. After serving 11 years as a member of the North West Mounted Police, Frank is horrified by the mendacity and theft that robbed the Indigenous Peoples of their lands. He learns to respect the traditions and wisdom of Anishinabeg culture and begins to understand the urgent need to live in harmony with Mother Nature. Frank was diminutive in stature, lame in one leg, deaf in one ear and had a tendency to stutter… the perfect comic anti-protagonist. This saga, blending comedy with tragedy for a Turtle Island prairie adventure like no other, will leave audiences questioning what it means to be Canadian.
“This is our ‘mostly factual’ history,” offers Sprung. “I have however gleefully purloined names and the occasional phrase and snippets of dialogue from the works of Charles Dickens, along with creating my own descriptive monikers.” Spectators will have fun spotting famous lines out of context and wondering when the Ghost of Dickens Past will pop up next, while keeping an eye out for Pip, Micawber, Choke, Barkis and Wopsle.
The gifted and versatile ensemble cast plays a multitude of characters helmed by Danny Brochu (last seen at Infinithéâtre in Progress) as Frank. Patrick Abellard, Shawn Campbell, Brefny Caribou-Curtin, Carmen Grant, Tyson Houseman, Howard Rosenstein, Anana Rydvald and Ivan Smith shine as they seamlessly chaperone the experience, encouraging the audience to boo and hiss throughout the performance as if attending a Victorian melodrama. Fight On! Part 1’s significant video component integrates music, projected live camera and taped video, transforming the stage. Audiences will be whisked from the East End of London to a curling arena, train station, outdoor market and the furthest reaches of North America.
Frank: “Blindness, Father! Egotistical, self-serving, platitudes. You are missing out on Life! Life is a circle.”
Drew Hayden Taylor‘s (Ojibway, Curve Lake) sardonic, ‘Red Pen’ colour commentary, in direct counter-point to the European settlers’ perspective of the tale, will be projected during the show. Adds Sprung, “Along with live action and quick costume changes, Drew’s interwoven scrolled text completes this literate, ironic-Dickensian storytelling of the invasion and occupation by European settlers.”
Turning Espace Knox into this theatrical extravaganza are talented Montréal virtuosos: set, Cassandre Chatonnier; costumes, Emily Soussana; mask master, Brian Smith; lighting, Jon Cleveland; video, Andrew Scriver; sound, Devon Bate; and props, Claire Renaud. Kate Hagemeyer is the stage manager and Barbara Diabo is the assistant director/choreographer.
Fight On! is a two-part epic; this season offers Part 1 (Song of Innocence) in a professional workshop performance, next season is Part 2 (Innocence Transubstantiated), and the following season will present both parts in a full-scale production at the beautiful St-James Theatre. The 3-year development of Fight-On! will include the mentorship of Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon from the unparalleled 4D Art (Cité Mémoire in Old Montréal). To encourage dialogue, the company will hold talkbacks after each performance, offering the public an opportunity to voice their opinions and directly influence the play’s development. On Thursdays there will be an invited panelist, promoting civic dialogue around the issues explored, for a richer theatre-going experience. CN Aboriginal Affairs proudly sponsors the Thursday, April 12th performance, welcoming members of Indigenous communities.
Performances: April 10th – 22nd, 2018
Preview Tues. April 10th; Opening Night Weds. April 11th
Tuesday – Saturday, 8:00pm, Saturday and Sunday matinée at 2:00pm
Venue: Espace Knox, 6215 Godfrey Ave. in NDG
Tickets: $23-$30; Pay What You Decide: all Sun. matinées and Wed. Apr. 11
Honour Mother Nature: Herbalist’s Day Special: Tues. Apr. 17, 2 tickets for $40