Last summer’s Fringe Fest was the usual blur of sleep deprivation and late night hedonism, but in the midst of the haze, you could not escape one piece fo buzz: Go see Beaver Dreams. Everyone was simply in love, it won a ton of awards and I had missed the boat. Thankfully, you can make up for it and see it this weekend at Mainline Theatre.
This multi-media puppet, physical comedy, family-friendly, bilingual, cardboard-set extravaganza is fun. It’s a meditation on a family’s multi-generational war on a beaver family on their lake at the cottage, as told from their AND the beaver’s perspectives. It’s kernel idea is that while this family relishes having a private, pristine space where they can enjoy nature, they are basically the worst nightmare compared to the nature that was there before. There are very energetic characterizations and the physical acting is very well done. This is first and foremost a family show, and it’s really geared towards kids enjoying themselves and that is always a good thing.
As someone with a family cottage, and a family of beavers who threatens destruction at every turn, I can relate, but honestly, I did not enjoy this as much as I should have. I found that the perspective was a bit naive, and to me, the family came off as entitled and that kept me from fully empathizing with their perspective. While it’s all well and good to enjoy a private unspoiled space in the country, make no mistake, it’s a privilege that many do not enjoy. The statement that through their ownership of the land, “they are the ones that keep development at bay”, in my opinion, comes off as self-righteous and self-important, similar to the capitalist argument “I deserve the profits because I create jobs”. The biggest irony of them all is that that argument is often made by someone who inherited the benefit, business or means of production, much like the people in this story inherit the family cottage. Perhaps this whole show is designed to show you the flaws in capitalism itself, as its forces destroy natural habitat and self-sustaining ways of life! Perhaps it is even more brilliant than I thought! Or perhaps I am overthinking the thing to death and I need to lighten up!
Perhaps others disagree with me, and that is fine. Either way, I heartily invite you to see it for yourself and think on it, and you only have this weekend to do so, so hop to it. Independent theatre (and non-independent theatre for that matter) should spark discussion, and I think that there is a larger point brought up by the very idea of ethical land ownership by this work and what that means in the context of environmental concerns, development and potentially, if we want to go even further, the analysis of the very idea of “cottage country”. I for one, wonder if there is a First Nations perspective and angle that can be added to the discussion. What does it mean for a white family to keep stolen land undeveloped but restricted to their private use? Heady topics for a kids show, but really, there is a lot of meat in this topic and I hope that the artists keep exploring and I look forward to their future works.
Beaver Dreams is playing at Mainline Theatre (3997 St-Laurent) playing March 10th at 8pm, March 11th at 16h00 and 20h00 and March 12th at 16h00. You can buy tickets on the Mainline Theatre website (http://mainlinetheatre.ca/en/spectacles/beaver-dreams-la-fievre-du-castor) for 22$ each.