Do I know how to schedule a double-bill or don’t I? Two shows, both starring a wildly talented John/Jon, both emotionally charged kicks to the central nervous system, both so good my eyes hurt. Sometimes you just pick’em right.
So right after catching Jon Paterson’s show at Studio 1201, I stuck around to catch the next show, this time Fringe veteran and acting God John Huston in CIVILIZED, written by another prolific Fringer, Keir Cutler and directed by Paul Hopkins. Huston, who aside from his many Fringe appearances also regularly graces Ottawa with his Xmas-time tellings of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, shines in this piece as William Blank, a lesser light in Wilfrid Laurier’s government, working underneath Minister of the Interior Frank Oliver. More specifically, being tasked to deal with the ‘Indian problem’. Yeah. That’s where we’re going with this one, and it ain’t pretty. But it is outstanding.
Calling on actual writings and speeches from Canada’s cruel past, CIVILIZED tries to understand the mentality that led to the horror of the residential school system, and how supposedly ‘good’ men could continue on even as the atrocities started piling up. It’s a harrowing exercise in national self-reflection, and John Huston’s performance is nothing short of a tour-de-force, of the type you usually have to shell out 50 bucks at the NAC to catch. Peeling back the layers of the banality of evil, it’s harrowing to experience this bureaucratic justification of genocide, even as Blank’s justifications slowly begin to crumble. A difficult thing to watch, as Huston portrays Blank’s absolute glee at the things he had helped make happen. But a crazily important and timely thing to watch, as well. This show should be required viewing in this country. Civilized plays at Studio 1201 for the remainder of the Ottawa Fringe, with tickets available at the official website here. Peace, love and soul,