Perfect 10 at the NAC! Sir John A.: Acts of a Gentrified Ojibway Rebellion

The NAC has pulled off a theatrical perfect 10 in Drew Hayden Taylor’s Sir John A:  Acts of a Gentrified Ojibway Rebellion.  It is a thought-provoking play about various issues such as First Nations relations,  the struggles of youth, reconciling with history, justice and finding your place in the world.  It is sometimes outrageous but always funny, poignant, entertaining and really makes you think and possibly re-evaluate your perspective on issues.  It has all the elements of an outstanding play: perfect dialogue, engaging characters and acting that is second to none. Even the songs chosen to accompany the play are fantastic.

The play covers two eras: the time of Sir John A. Macdonald and today, going seamlessly back and forth between the two.

The first is a continuous, delightful and engaging monologue from Canada’s first PM that has all the elements of his time:  antiquated opinions on Canada’s First Nations, his views on politics, on a budding nation and of course, witty commentary on his own habits (such as his legendary drinking). 

Jump forward to today for a discussion between two First Nations friends, Bobby, who is an angry man on a mission to repatriate an artifact that belonged to his grandfather. He runs into speed bumps in his journey and convinces his friend Hugh, who is an affable guy obsessed with becoming a rock star and taking selfies (he is an absolute gem of a character), to head to Kingston on a wild escapade to dig up Sir John A’s bones and hold them ransom. 

As they head out on the highway, they meet up with Anya at a rest stop, a smart, young stranded woman trying to get back to Kingston after a bad break up.  They all embark on the road trip together with great conversation and touching scenes.  I can’t do the dialogue justice other than to say it is engaging, riveting in fact, and at the end of the play, you are sad that it is over.  It is that good.  And I won’t scene spoil what happens when they get to Kingston.

I am convinced Martin Julien is channeling Sir John A he is so amazing.  When he is on stage nothing else exists, he commands every part of your attention.  Herbie Barnes is absolutely delightful as Hugh and Katie Ryerson was her usual brilliant acting self in her portrayal of Anya.  Kudos to Darrell Dennis for pulling off an angry Bobby without getting annoying about it.  He struck the perfect balance.

I am always sad that the shows in the Azrieli Studio have a shorter run because in many cases, they are the most satisfying of the NAC theatre season.   You can see it tonight and tomorrow.  Don’t miss this one if you can avoid it.