Familiar Lessons : Civilized

two photos of an actor John D. Huston in Civilized

Civilized (directed by Paul Hopkins, written by Kier Cutler) is a most didactic piece of theatre. This does not condemn it, as there is a lot in Civilized which is important to know. John D. Huston declares almost immediately that he is Metis. This is the way in which we know we are not to witness an “appropriation of voice”.

The main storyteller is William Blank, a persona who worked for the Federal Indian agency at the turn of the twentieth century under the “saintly” prime minister Wilfred Laurier. He comes back from he grave to spend an hour justifying (or not) the residential schools. Blank tells about the logic of converting the nomadic savage children of the Indigenous people into civilized people who spoke either English or French and abandoned, under duress, all connections with their families and tribes

There is mention of the torture suffered by these children, but mostly we have been given the wild rationalization of Canadian politicians and bureaucrats for a genocide conducted when “civilized” agrarian society moved West and the people who already lived there, resisted.

Huston gives a masterful performance of very difficult material. The writing is a lecture on racism meant to admonish the people of the present age. The lights are often very low, and the “lecture” somewhat repetitive. I did witness more than one senior napping.  

Usually Kier Cutler’s scripts are innovative and touching and well worth our attention; I am a big fan. Civilized is very didactic and has material with which we are already sadly familiar.

Civilized is at Musée McCord on June 9, 10, and 11 as part of the Montreal Fringe Festival. For tickets, for Civilized, click HERE. For tickets for all Fringe shows, click HERE.