Mutiny, mayhem, and murder. Canada's history reads more like an exciting pirate tale than a boring textbook, and that's exactly what Monster Theatre's The Canada Show will show you this Saturday, Nov. 18 at 5 p.m. at the Maury Young Arts Centre. In just an hour, the live, family-friendly performance will delve into Canada's history — but put away your pencils; this is not your social-studies teacher's version of our nation's defining moments.
"The show gets into the dark corners of our history," says Monster Theatre's founder and artistic director Ryan Goldstone.
It's not all doom and gloom, though. Rather, the show deftly uses humour to shuttle us through 150 years of happenings.
"It does so in a way that still lets us laugh and feel good about ourselves in the end," Goldstone says.
Targeting anyone between five and 105 years of age, the comedy will entertain everyone with its witty style and tone.
"I think part of it is the sheer volume of content," says Gladstone. "The show is so fast and there are so many elements in it. If you weren't alive when Mackenzie King was prime minister then you don't get those jokes. If you didn't grow up watching Degrassi High then there's a certain number of jokes you don't get. But there are puppets for the kids. It really does have stuff for everyone."
The show features an Indigenous actor, a French-Canadian woman and an Anglo-Canadian woman, all of whom are fighting to tell their version of Canada's history.
"We always thought of them as kids on a playground continually fighting with each other, trying to get their version of history told," says Goldstone. "The English girl keeps skipping over the French-Canadian moments and she gets angry and starts fighting for her role."
Though improvisational in tone, the show is scripted. The script was originally written in 2001 by Goldstone and Monster Theatre's artistic associate Bruce Horak. The two, along with another colleague, combed through volumes of historical books to select the events they would include.
"We were looking for events that lead to today," says Goldstone.
The events themselves weren't enough, though. Goldstone and Horak looked for the ones that had good stories to them — like the tale of Hudson's Bay.
"Henry Hudson was one of many explorers looking for the Northwest Passage and ended up finding Hudson's Bay, but the story is a great story," recalls Goldstone. "He was marooned there by his crew because they refused to turn around. He and his son were left on a raft and died in the bay."
The show originally ran for nine years, earning many accolades along the way. When Canada turned 150, Gladstone dusted it off and revamped it with more current content.
"In that gap between 2010 and 2016, the world had changed so much," notes Goldstone, adding that there is more women and indigenous content in the updated version, all with the dramatic flare and humour that Monster Theatre is known for.
You can expect anything from water guns to puppets to a hockey game, with references to Mr. Dressup, William Shatner, and Justin Bieber. There's even a nod to Tim Hortons.
"They'll need to pay attention," warns Goldstone, "because it goes fast."
"It's a fun show and it's really easy to come across."
Tickets for the performance are $10, available at the Maury Young Arts Centre or at artswhistler.com.