>>> Review: Trudeau and Levesque

TRUDEAU AND LEVESQUE written and directed by Michael Hollingsworth (VideoCabaret). At Young Centre for the Performing Arts (50 Tank House)..


TRUDEAU AND LEVESQUE written and directed by Michael Hollingsworth (VideoCabaret). At Young Centre for the Performing Arts (50 Tank House). To June 13. $26-$56. 416-866-8666. See Continuing. Rating: NNNN

The latest Soulpepper-partnered remount of Michael Hollingsworth‘s sweeping 21-part Canadian history series History Of The Village Of The Small Huts, picks up where last year’s award-winning instalment, Trudeau And The FLQ (currently running in rep, so you can catch both), left off.

It unfolds during the 1970s and early 80s, with the PM (Mac Fyfe) half-heartedly wed to free-spirit Margaret Trudeau (Aurora Browne). Meanwhile in Quebec, PQ leader Rene Levesque (Richard Alan Campbell) finds himself torn between the radical Jacques Parizeau (Cyrus Faird) and the more mainstream minister Claude Morin (Craig Lauzon) during attempts to win the provincial legislature from the Liberals and launch the 1980 sovereignty referendum.

While Trudeau And The FLQ hinges on the 1970 October Crisis for narrative structure, this one struggles a bit due to the many historical complexities in play and the absence of a singular main event. It covers multiple federal and provincial elections, a referendum, and the signing of the 1982 Constitution Act – enough power-jockeying to make anyone’s head spin. Still, Hollingsworth is a master at distilling convoluted political processes into sharp comic vignettes played out in a visually stunning Brechtian comedy-of-manners style.

Even without the FLQ fireworks, there’s lots to love here, including VideoCab newcomer Faird, whose animated facial expressions and kooky vocal work make both Parizeau and RCMP Inspector Strangeways hilarious to watch.

Fyfe’s (Dora-awarded) Trudeau is again spot-on, this time channelling the PM’s professorial arrogance into funny passive-aggressive jabs at pot-smoking hippie Margaret. The scene depicting Margaret’s famous Toronto encounter with Mick Jagger after a Rolling Stones concert at the El Mocambo gets big hometown love. Scoring laughs in their brief appearances are Trudeau’s ministerial lackey Jean Chretien (Browne) and failed PM Joe Clark (Lauzon).

The production partnership between VideoCab and Soulpepper, now in its third year, has given the Queen West crew a bigger audience, slicker tech and this year the chance to run two shows in rep. If you’re new to Hollingsworth’s fantastic history series, I recommend checking out Trudeau And The FLQ first before moving on to what is essentially part two.

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