SummerWorks review: The Only Good Indian

THE ONLY GOOD INDIAN by Jivesh Parasram, Tom.

THE ONLY GOOD INDIAN by Jivesh Parasram, Tom Arthur Davis, Donna-Michelle St. Bernard (Pandemic Theatre/SummerWorks). At Factory Mainspace. Aug 9 at 5 pm, Aug 10 at 5:15 pm, Aug 11 at 8:45 pm, Aug 12 at 9 pm, Aug 13 at 3:30 pm. See listing. Rating: NNNN

This radical and thought-provoking show conceived by Jivesh Parasram delves deep into the history, politics and logics of occupation, colonization and indigeneity.

The format of the show features one of three revolving performers (Parasram, Tom Arthur Davis and Donna-Michelle St. Bernard on different days, check Pandemic Theatre’s website for listings) delivering a 45-minute lecture-style performance focused on their own personal experiences and worldview, followed by an optional “long table discussion” where the audience and creative team can talk about the different questions and themes raised.

The show I saw featured an incredibly personal and powerful performance by St. Bernard that focused on the colonization of the Caribbean by Spanish, French, English and American forces, the state of “otherness” and inequality these acts impose on the people there, and what resistance to this has looked like.

St. Bernard combines revealing history lessons, like the categories 16th-century Spanish colonizers invented for the Indigenous groups they encountered (“cannibals” or “peaceful”), which they shifted whenever it suited their interests.

She also talks in depth about the colonial history of Grenada including “leaper’s hill,” so named for the thirty Indigenous resistance fighters who in the 17th century chose to jump to their deaths rather than be captured by French soldiers, and her family’s traumatic experience during the socialist revolution in 1979 and American invasion in 1983.

To say St. Bernard’s fearless and fiery presentation resonated would be an understatement.

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