Thursday Theatre Review: The Saskatchewan Rebellion

The Saskatchewan Rebellion, presented by Video Cabaret, has the tagline "The Last Spike is hammered, Louis Riel is hanged, and the West is open for business..." The show is in the theatre at the back of the Cameron House and is the 7th instalment of the play cycle "The History of the Village of Small Huts" and watching it is a bit like a history lesson with a lot of tongue in cheek, a healthy dose of satire and some really interesting visuals.

This certainly doesn't come a form that is what folks typically think of plays coming in. The lighting is tight spotlights, the costumes, wigs and make up are over the top, the whole thing feels a bit like sound bites rather than a cohesive story. It was a bit like a television program on a stage. All of which made it very interesting to watch. All hightened by the mesmerizing visuals.

The venue also added to the show. The intimate space is perfect for this type of show. I'm guessing the room capacity is 35-40 people.

My show partner for this show was John, you might remember John from when I wrote about The Sheep and the Whale. John's someone you're likely to see a fair bit of because he's actually not just my show-partner, he's my partner partner. John is "a civil servant with a theatre degree" and whenever someone can't come to a show at the last minute, John gets to step in and gets to see some theatre.

We both enjoyed The Saskatchewan Rebellion. Not only was it incredibly cool visually, we also both learned a bit about Canadian history. The show feels a bit like a cross between clowning and mask work (although, there are no physical masks). I mentioned it was over the top, and it is, which really works for this piece. It does mean that you don't become invested in the characters at all, which is fine, but another way in which it's not what folks typically think of when they think of a play.

When I asked John my standard three questions: "What was your overall impression?" "What was your favourite part" "What was your least favourite part?" He said, "It was a worthwhile way to spend an evening - more so if I had time to get a beer to take in with me." (We arrived a bit later than planned...) and then went on to talk about the "very strong visual appeal" and "very clever use of lighting". The mention of clever use of lighting was interesting as a favourite part of the show because when I asked him what was his least favourite part he said that the show was "verging on too clever"

I understand what he's saying about "too clever", but I didn't mind that part, it's all part of the over the top feeling that I was talking about before. Other than the "too clever" comment our impressions of the show seemed to completely line up.

The bottom line is that as long as your not expecting a 'typical' play then this will be an interesting, and yes, educational, way to spend an evening. I was certainly glad I went. Because the space is so small I highly recommend getting your tickets ahead of time, and that you come earlier rather than later to pick yourself a seat you're happy with.

If you know a lot about this time in Canada's history and you've seen the show I'd love to hear from you in the comments. I'm very curious about how closely this meshes with your understanding of the events of the time (the show was revised and expanded to incorporate new research).


- At Cameron House - 408 Queen Street West (one block west of Spadina)
- Runs until April 8th, Tuesday to Saturday 8pm, Sunday 2:30pm
- Tickets prices vary depending on what day you attend: Tuesdays - $15, Wednesdays & Sundays $20, Thursdays $25, Fridays & Saturdays $30
- Box office 416-703-1725

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