Honouring Theatre: Annie Mae's Movement
Annie Mae's Movement
Firehall Theatre, Vancouver BC
October 12 – October 22, 2006
All three plays for the Honouring Theatre project are great. They
are aboriginal theatre plays from Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
On Wednesday night I attended the opening night for Windmill Baby
(Australia). Thursday night, I returned for Annie Mae's Movement
(Canada), and Friday Night for Frangipani
Zealand). Each play is different in setting, style, and story – yet each allows
the audience member to step into the culture and share the experience
of being aboriginal in New Zealand, Canada and Australia.
Annie Mae's Movement is a powerful two person play with strong acting
from Michelle St. John,
who plays Annie Mae, the MikMaq woman who
travelled to Wounded Knee to become involved with the American Indian
Movement (AIM). There is a reference to AIM leaders Leonard
Pelletier, and Dennis Banks whom Annie Mae becomes involved with, but
the play is really Annie's journey through empowerment, hope,
resistance and her eventual death.
Based on the true story of Annie Mae Pictou Aquash, Yvette Nolan has
written and directed a true piece of Canadian history. While this
abidged version of the original production is much revised, it still
vividly portrays the personal story and conflicts of what it may have
been like for Annie Mae to be a woman in a man's movement, a Canadian
in the United States, and person of colour in a White dominated world,
while still actively believing that she had the power to create a
better world for herself, her daughters and her people.
A creative set makes good use of screens with landscape designs that
evoke both the forest, and a camp setting. They also serve as
backdrops for shadow theatre when one of the actors dresses up as a
wolf to signify the mythical “Loup Garou” wolf creature. It is a
simple but effective example of the “magic” of theatre to take a simple
idea and transform it into a powerful revelation.
Grahame Merke plays multiple male characters who each interact with
Annie Mae. He handles the transitions nicely giving each
character a distinctly different personality and manner to make it
believable that each character is different.
One of my favorite scenes is the opening where Annie Mae is speaking to
the audience and uses a bright red cloth as a stage prop to signify
that she is holding a baby, then with a few quick deft moves, she demonstrates that her hands are tied up. It's a
wonderful display of St. John's acting skills and of the theatre
direction to both communicate with the audience while performing
physical tasks, and give the audience a visual hook.
Annie Mae's Movement is definitely something to recommend to friends, as well as the New
Zealand Maori play “Frangipani