• James Parry

Métis hero Louis Riel brought back to life at Hudson Village Theatre

PHOTO BY SABRINA REEVES John Lachlan Stewart as a train in HVT’s puppetry and Canadian historical epic, Louis Riel, running at Hudson Village Theatre September 7 to 10.

At a time when many controversial political leaders who played a key role in the history of both Canada and the U.S. are being questioned by revisionists, the latest show being staged at Hudson Village Theatre opening tonight, Thursday, September 7, and running through Sunday, September 10, could not be more appropriate.

A production of RustWerk Refinery based on the graphic novel by Chester Brown and titled Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Stage Play, this live-action puppet epic takes an intrepid look at some of our nation's founders as it steams through early Canadian history, revealing a rugged and treacherous landscape both in life and politics.

Including, according to RustWerk co-founder and director, Zach Fraser, Louis Riel, the Canadian politician often referred to as the 'Father of Manitoba' and the Métis hero who fought to preserve his people's rights and culture and who was hanged in 1885 for having led a rebellion against the Canadian government at the time.

Says Fraser, “Despite Riel's troubling visions and personal discussions with God, he was a gifted leader in a time when defying the dominant society was a treacherous affair. And in this production we bring his story to life with simple two-dimensional black and white puppets animated by five performers playing multiple roles. And any community living as a minority struggling to protect its place within a larger society will appreciate this unique and compelling tale. A rare treat for graphic novel fans, history buffs, and puppet lovers of all ages too.”

To be sure, Louis Riel; A Comic-Strip Stage Play is charged with controversy and irreverence in its depiction of Canada’s historical figures and RustWerk’s eerily naïve, yet remarkably evocative puppets are right off the page, a tribute to the vibrant and stunning artistry of Chester Brown. But it also makes for a gripping adventure story, part history lesson, and a completely fascinating night out at the theatre.

Says Fraser, “A few years ago, we brought our show, ‘...and Stockings for the Ladies’, to HVT. It's such a charming theatre and so apropos that the story unfolds when the Canadian railway was being constructed, and here we are performing in this historic, still-active train station. I’ve been teaching at John Abbott College for several years and have several students from Hudson, so it’s very special for us to perform here.”

A free copy of Chester Brown’s graphic novel about Louis Riel, published by Drawn and Quarterly, will be given away to one lucky ticketholder at every performance and books will also be on sale in the HVT lobby. For reservations call the Box Office at (450) 458-5361 or go to hvtbox@videotron.ca.

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