Thursday, May 28, 2015

More Canadian History

While there are several other things I ought to post on, I think I'll just report back on Trudeau and Levesque, which I saw last night at Soulpepper.  This is the continuation of Trudeau and the FLQ, which I reported on here.  It really was quite incredible, though perhaps not quite as dramatic as the first one.  You certainly got the impression that Trudeau was tired of the never-ending drama with Quebec separatists* and growing disillusioned over the perceived fickleness of the public, troublesome reporters, politics in general and perhaps most of all with his marriage.  He is more short-tempered in general, though still able to rise to the occasion of being charming when necessary.

Given some of the clever callbacks (the Quebec cop with a nervous tick that sort of mirrored that of Paul, a leader of the FLQ, as well as Trudeau back in his canoe (with Chrétien this time) about to shoot the rapids), it really does make sense to see the plays in order.  It also helped that I had just read a short piece on the Rolling Stones coming to Toronto secretly to record a live album at El Mocambo.**  Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and if anything Hollingsworth played down some of the more salacious details of Margaret Trudeau's trial separation from Pierre.  (The portrayal of the Stones' gig is a highlight of the evening.)

There is no question that one should avoid this play-cycle if one is a Trudeau-hater or someone with a deep affinity for the conservatives.  Joe Clark, in particular, comes across as a ridiculous buffoon, perhaps the worst of any politician that Hollingsworth chronicled, though as I noted, I haven't seen his Mulroney play.  Ideally, Video Cabaret will do that one and The Cold War next season, though the Cold War sounds a bit flimsier plot-wise than these other ones.  One does have to have a serious interest in history and find constitutional negotiations at least somewhat intriguing, at least the backdoor aspects of it all.  So perhaps these are plays that work best for the people that actually liked all the discussion of trade wars in the Star Wars prequels.

Personally, I am sorry that I missed out on living in Canada under Trudeau.  His concerns for Canada as a whole and his intellectualism really strike a chord in me.  That symbolizes what made Canada a particularly enlightened country during the 70s and early 80s.  While the Chrétien years don't really measure up in the same way (and Chrétien was not an intellectual at all), at heart Chrétien shared most of Trudeau's convictions.  At the same time, these plays do show Trudeau's steely resolve and reliance on a somewhat out-of-control RCMP.  He may have been better than the alternatives, but he was still a politician.  I occasionally see flashes of the father in Justin, though I truly fear he and Mulcair will split the anti-Harper vote yet again.  Hopefully, I am wrong.

Misgivings about the future of Canada aside, I learned a great deal about the recent past by seeing these two Trudeau-centered pieces (and was inspired to order a two volume biography of Trudeau).  I do think these two plays together are most likely the highlight of Hollingsworth's history cycle, and I would urge Torontonians to check them out.  I think there are roughly three weeks left to go.  I know that they are recording these pieces, and perhaps some day Video Cabaret will actually put the shows for sale on DVD.  Seeing them live is always going to be better, but I would definitely take the opportunity to get these performances on DVD, as they were so strong.
* The PQ leadership is really raked over the coals here, though Parizeau's instincts seem sound when he says that the sovereignty question isn't a question but a novel (no idea if he said this in reality).  Still, the PQ come across better than Joe Clark.  Given that Parizeau has just passed away (6/1/2015), it is worth mentioning that Hollingsworth did sort of blur history perhaps a bit unfairly in putting the infamous "money and the ethnic vote" in Parizeau's mouth at the end of the 1980 campaign and not the 1995 one, though Hollingsworth may simply be indicating that Parizeau's views didn't shift too much on who was to blame when the No side prevailed.
** Actually there are good pieces in the Star here and the National Post here (one of the only pieces I have found worth reading in this paper).  The El Mocambo was thisclose to closing down when an entrepreneur swooped in to save it.  I have walked past it several times, but never gone in.  I haven't decided whether I will try to see a show there or not after they are done with the remodeling.  I think it's heyday was long over even in the early 90s whereas Lee's Palace was basically still going strong in the 90s and only now is feeling long in the tooth. However, if the right band comes through, I'll try to make it over to El Mo. 

Despite Canada clearly being on the wrong track at the national level, it is important to remind myself that it is actually far more federal than the United States, with the provinces having far more control over one's day-to-day life than the states do relative to D.C. in the U.S. 

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