Political theatre hits close to home in Whitewash, Robin Fulford’s play about the 1995 shooting of native activist Dudley George during a standoff with the OPP on disputed land in Ipperwash Provincial Park. It was only last year that a public inquiry formally implicated the OPP and both provincial and federal governments in the action, and the land itself has not yet been restored to the Chippewas, though the province announced its intention to do so in December.
“In my heart I’m on the side of the natives,” says Platform 9’s Fulford, “but the show deals with the complex set of perspectives involved and how they interact. I’m interested in how we want our society to work, how various forces – natives, government, police, the general public – can work together in a way that has not yet been tried successfully.”
Mark Cassidy directs an all-native cast, with Pamela Matthews as George, “a hovering presence who gets involved as a tragic figure, a trickster and the spirit of the play.
“I didn’t realize that Dudley was going to be that complicated a figure,” laughs Fulford, whose socially conscious work includes Steel Kiss and Sleeproom. “There’s a conscious effort to make the chronological narrative a theatrical one, especially since we had to draw on the lengthy 2007 Linden report. We’re using not only traditional storytelling but also puppetry and surreal elements.”
Fulford’s never before worked on a show that’s recording history before it’s fully made; native land claims are still, unfortunately, in the news. But the immediacy of the material is one of the playwright’s driving factors.
“I know that most of my audience believe as I do, but many aren’t acting on that belief. I see a play like Whitewash as an inspiration to action. It’s a play that works not just on an informational but also on an emotional level.”