AND ONE NIGHT IT SNOWED created by the company, directed by Allyson McMackon, with Hume Baugh, Patrick Conner, Melinda Little, Viv Moore and Lucy Rupert. Presented by Rusty-Snow Co-op at the Theatre Centre (1087 Queen West). Opens tonight (Thursday, January 8) and runs to January 17, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $15-$18, Sunday pwyc. 416-538-0988. Rating: NNNNN
for most people, trudeaumania was a 70s thing. Don't tell that to Allyson McMackon, whose latest work, And One Night It Snowed, is inspired by her respect for former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. "I'm a Trudeau baby," she admits over a cup of coffee, "and what he did as a person and a leader still has significance for me today.
"Trudeau was about passion, vision, belief. He had faith in a society of individuals that can aspire to something beyond what we are, using thought, dialogue and understanding."
The show is also a response to 9/11 and what's been happening south of the border, where a nation's being run by a leader "who doesn't have the same point of view of the world that I do," she says with a serious smile.
Like McMackon's evocative, successful shows for Theatre Rusticle, Dinner At Seven-Thirty and Now The Day Is Over (both suggested by Virginia Woolf texts), And One Night combines text and movement in fascinating fashion.
In fact, a key image she worked with was the news photo of Trudeau, full of energy and impishness, pirouetting away from a group of dignitaries.
"That's such a great image," recalls the director and co-creator, "and I wanted to explore what it means, what it says. The initial workshop was about big political, historical and philosophical concepts, but the feedback I got afterward helped shape a piece that focuses more on Trudeau himself, not the larger picture."
What she's come up with, in collaboration with the performers and other contributing artists, is five separate views of Trudeau that take shape on the famous 1984 night of his "walk in the snow," when he decided to resign, changing his future and that of Canada.
"There's the Lover, who's connected with Margaret and Barbra Streisand, the jet-setter in the tuxedo. Then there's the Trickster/Philosopher King, the prankster who knows how to manoeuvre around anyone, and the Warrior, the man of action who through sheer brute strength got things done.
"The weirdest is the Tree, inspired by a biblical passage, the private man we didn't see: the essayist, the man aware of his own mortality. They're all tied together and siphoned through the Walker, the contemplative man on the brink of important decisions."
McMackon is consciously steering clear of the Maggie And Pierre stories of Linda Griffiths and the cartoonish representations of Trudeau in Michael Hollingsworth's VideoCab series.
Her collaborators include soundscape designer Patric Caird, who's been sampling from Bach played by Glenn Gould, and lighting designer Paul Major, whose job it is to give audiences the sense that they're walking into a gentle snowfall in the Theatre Centre's black box.
But it's the explorative work with her performers that really charges McMackon's discussion of the piece. Trained in both theatre and dance, she's firmly committed to a marriage of the forms, which here includes children's games like Follow the Leader, political speeches, Rimbaud's poetry and even a bit of Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac, a favourite character of Trudeau's.
"I'm realizing as I work how much the show demands a blend of styles. We have to work on the precision of the actor in how a speech breaks down into beats, but the performers also need the precision in the body in terms of knowing where an impulse lies - whether it's the elbow, the leg, the back of the neck."
What's crucial for McMackon is that the end result, which she hopes will have "a dreamy, lucid fairy tale feel," be something she and her fellow artists all own.
"What we're building has to be organically connected, with landmarks, turns, bends in the river and rocks that the performers can attach themselves to as they make this journey.
"It's important that how they move from rock to rock has a freedom, so they can follow their impulses not through a textual structure but through the structure of the body and each other. They hang onto one another, follow through, test the impulses and move along."