BWW Review: COTTAGERS AND INDIANS at Ottawa's Great Canadian Theatre Company
As the antidote to our impending winter blues, Drew Hayden Taylor's Cottagers and Indians transports us to the serenity of Ontario's cottage country in summertime. We meet the story's two characters, Arthur Copper (Herbie Barnes), an Indigenous man of humble means, whose family has lived in the area forever, and Maureen Poole (Philippa Domville), a Caucasian upper-middle class woman who lives and works in the Toronto area, but has owned a cottage on Starling Lake for the last twenty or so years. It is evident in the first few minutes that there is no love lost between Arthur and Maureen. In fact, the air is decidedly icy, despite the warmth of the season.
We quickly learn that Maureen is upset because Arthur planted manoomin, or wild rice, in Starling Lake, impeding the cottagers' ability to swim and boat safely. Meanwhile, Arthur believes that he has the right to plant and harvest the manoomin as his ancestors did before him - long before there were any cottages on the lakefront.
Hayden Taylor portrays both Arthur and Maureen as genuinely good people, making it difficult to choose sides. As Maureen and Arthur banter back and forth, Hayden Taylor shows us both perspectives and we can relate to them equally.
Barnes and Domville were excellent, with both actors giving impassioned performances. The set was simple, but the actors' many references and gestures to areas and items off stage made it seem bigger and more elaborate. Beau Dixon's sound design engrossed us in the setting right from the start.
The story has its fair share of humour, with both characters' sharp tongued wit providing some good one-liners. Hayden Taylor pokes fun at stereotypes on both sides and makes us question whether people only tolerate different cultures if they are not personally affected.
The performances by Barnes and Domville alone make this a show worth checking out. Cottagers and Indians runs through December 15, 2019 at the Great Canadian Theatre Company. For more information and to buy tickets, go to https://www.gctc.ca/shows/cottagers-and-indians.