THE MACKENZIE/PAPINEAU REBELLION written and directed by Michael Hollingsworth, with Janet Burke, Greg Campbell, Patrick Conner, Eddie Glen, Steven McCarthy, Ostap Soroka and Bruce Vavrina. Presented by VideoCabaret at the Cameron House (408 Queen West). Runs to June 2, Tuesday-Saturday 7:30 pm, matinees Saturday-Sunday 2:30 pm. $20-$25, matinees $15, Tuesday pwyc. 416-703-1725. Rating: NNNN
VideoCabaret earns a great, hearty rebel whoop for its remount of The Mackenzie/Papineau Rebellion, the third part of playwright/director Michael Hollingsworth's cleverly scabrous, funny and decidedly unsentimental history of Canada. Unlike the first two segments, which cover a lot of time and see-sawing politics, this episode focuses squarely on the 1837 revolts in Upper and Lower Canada.Hollingsworth -- who's added material for this set of remounts -- is sympathetic to William Lyon Mackenzie, the egalitarian newspaperman who became Toronto's first mayor and led local forces against the politically and economically tight-fisted Family Compact. He's more satiric toward Louis Joseph Papineau, who wants some of the English lords' power in Lower Canada but lords it over his own servants.
Company regulars Bruce Vavrina and Janet Burke understand the house style down to the last raised eyebrow, but what's more impressive is how the five newcomers capture the unashamed-to-be-oversized performing manner.
Patrick Conner turns on a dime as the rebel Lount and a grovelling servant, Steven McCarthy plays the duplicitous Rolph with eye-rolling comic takes, and Ostap Soroka, capped with what looks like white foam, makes a hysterically snobbish Papineau.
The standouts are Eddie Glen's Mackenzie, a cherubic-faced optimist with a helmet of red hair who anguishes over the spilling of "hot bubbling blood," and Greg Campbell as a series of dangerous, imbecilic politicians who hold the reins of power. His Governor Gosford drips condescension, while as Bishop Strachan, Campbell turns his mouth into a square of contempt whenever he smells a democrat. The pair take to Hollingsworth's Monty Pythonisms like, well... like Hollingsworth's politicians take to half-truths and self-interested scams.