Cottagers and Indians at the GCTC: Brilliant and Beautiful

You might think that there is something comforting about seeing a Canadian production about life on a lake, especially as nostalgia for dock days and warm summer afternoons sets in as the cold winds of December arrive.

However, as the play begins you are immediately confronted with difficult issues on the stage and you realize this may not be a kumbaya play about summer life in the Kawarthas. Also from the minute the play begins, you are captivated by the brilliant script by Canadian playwright and author Drew Hayden Taylor. He is a gem of the Canadian literary scene and this play just reinforces that position.

Cottagers and Indians delves into what becomes a complicated relationship of life on a lake and the struggles between the interests of local residents, and specifically First Nations in this case. 

Arthur Copper, a member of the Anishinaabe community is growing “manoomin” (wild rice) for his livelihood, food, etc. in the lakes in the Kawartha region. Cottagers, who at first view the man’s efforts as a major inconvenience, become increasingly perturbed and everything escalates into a full-on conflict. They view the manoomin as a major interference with their life on the lake

Hayden Taylor brilliantly depicts the issues with empathy, and quite frankly, understanding for both sides of the story, even when the uptight Toronto, Chardonnay-drinking, BBQ chicken-eating, tulip-planting white woman is spewing out her venom and bitchiness you can, at times, begrudgingly see her point.

Cottagers and Indians, staring Herbie Barnes and Philippa Domville, runs until December 15, 2019.

And then when Arthur opens up and shares his perspective on his rights, traditions and questions of equity, well you see his point too.

Hayden Taylor brilliantly navigates those waters with humour, empathy and wonderful insightfulness. The play is an amazing representation of seeing both sides of the story.

There are other fascinating issues touched upon such as the effects of colonization (use of technology in traditional First Nations traditions etc. etc.) and while they are peripheral, they add to the thought-provoking nature of the play. 

Without spoiling the plot, the resolution is heart-warming and will bring a tear to any eye as it touches on the heart of humanity, and that when surfaces, it can surpass all conflict. And that is the hope in this play. 

The acting is phenomenal. Herbie Barnes was brilliant in Sir John Eh! and that love of his acting continues in his performance in this play. 

Philippa Domville also depicted perfection the uptight Torontonian with perfection. She is deliciously detestable and yet evokes empathy at the same time. . .  incredibly so in fact.

Great for kids

It is always exciting when the GCTC has a production you can bring your kids to and this is one of them. There was also a study done in the UK recently that said exposing your kids to live theatre makes them smarter. Here is to that.

Photos: Andrew Alexander