The most timely of the Fringe shows that I saw this year was Trudeautopia, written and directed by Glyn Bowerman, which played at the Factory Studio Theatre. The story surrounded the October Crisis in Montreal in 1970, when Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau endorsed the War Measures Act for the first time during a period of peace. This measure saw the breakdown of civil liberties in Quebec and led to police officers infiltrating the FLQ and committing acts of terrorism disguised as FLQ members. With the riots, the black-clad anarchists many suspect as being “agent provocateurs,” the disintegration of civil liberties and the largest mass arrests in Canadian history in Toronto two weeks ago during the G20 Summit, the questions that this play raises about how much power the police should be allowed to seize in the name of security could not be more relevant.
Trudeautopia is a well written play with some really fantastic directorial imagery surrounding the idea of cultural vultures lurking to tear iconic Canadian’s down and stifle any story that does not depict our country as being the nice, polite land of peace, order and good government that we publicize to the world. It is then, perhaps, ironic that my issue with this play was that, in general, the actors were not gritty or intense enough to truly reflect the high stakes surrounding these acts of terrorism, the passion of the separatists, the corrupt, power-hungry cops and one boy caught in the middle who is utterly fucked regardless of how the plot unfolds.
Liam Morris brings a fantastic surliness to Robert, a deadpan organizer of strategic FLQ bombing targets, who does not have the time to become swept away by romanticism or pyromania. Melanie Hrymak is brilliant as both an idealistic theatre producer with a vision for creating Canadian art that challenges its audience and delves into the political and social depths of our country’s history to raise pertinent questions and as Pierre Elliott Trudeau himself, in a performance where her vocal timbres and rhythm speak volumes of the Prime Minister’s charm, intelligence and ego.
I thought Roselie Williamson could have shown more fierceness and spunk as the wild Francine, who should have been brass and ballsy. Colin Bruce Anthes could have been much more cold, pointed and commanding as the officer, while Aaron Rothermund’s choices for his young man seemed too wishy-washy for me to rally behind him. In general there was a lot of empty yelling in this play, which seemed charged only with volume, but devoid of its true intensity.
In all, Trudeautopia tells the story of a Canada that contradicts its own stereotype and confronts the idea that such violence, corruption and lust for power is actually prevalent in this country and that our freedom as a nation may be but a pawn in a political game buried deep beneath a facade of friendliness.