THE BRITISH written and directed by Michael Hollingsworth, with Janet Burke, Michael Carley, Deborah Lambie, Roger McKeen, Billy Merasty, Robert Nasmith and Bruce Vavrina. Presented by VideoCabaret at the Cameron House (408 Queen West). Runs to June 3, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Saturday and Sunday 2:30 pm. $15-$30. 416-703-1725. Rating: NNN
With the revival of the first part of The British, writer/director Michael Hollingsworth continues the mayhem that marks his theatrical send-up of Canadian history. And that's a good thing.
Beginning with the British takeover of France's Canadian colony and continuing with the Algonquin chief Pontiac's resistance to the redcoats, the evening begins in familiar Monty Pythonesque territory but ends on an equivocal note.
The first act, The Plains Of Abraham, is full of Hollingsworth's loony irreverence, with Bruce Vavrina's coldly lupine Wolfe fighting not only Janet Burke's elegant Montcalm but also the English generals Townshend (Deborah Lambie) and Murray (Roger McKeen).
Billy Merasty shines here as Madame Pean, a literally scarlet woman who seduces every male in sight. But as the title figure in The Conspiracy Of Pontiac, his very strength contributes to the second act's ambiguity. It's as if Hollingsworth hasn't found the right tone for the episode, whose dark comedy, humorous send-ups and real feelings are uncomfortably juxtaposed in his handling of Pontiac and other native figures.
The cast -- including Robert Nasmith and Michael Carley in Shadowland's typically fab costumes -- throw themselves into the work with zest. Jim Plaxton's pinpoint lighting, adapted by Andy Moro, proves as dramatically important as the text.