Wednesday 13 June 2007

19. Ernestine Shuswap Gets Her Trout

Thomson Highway is the author of two plays which are in my top ten favourite plays of all time: Rez Sisters and Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing. So, when I heard he'd published another play, I was really excited to read it.

I picked up Ernestine Shuswap Gets Her Trout at the library (it's hard for me to spend money on something that I know will take me less than 2 hours to read) and am almost done...and am really disappointed.

Highway is known for the way he relates the tragic through the comic, and he consciously addresses this issue in this play and in his prologue to it. But this play isn't actually either funny or comic in a more traditional sense, and this lack of the comic undermines the force of the tragic.

I cynically wonder if the fact that this play was commissioned has anything to do with its poor quality. I wonder also if Highway is getting lazy, banking too much on his reputation and not enough on his artistic sensibilities - he uses a lot of the same sort of post-modern dramatic techniques here that he uses in the two plays mentioned above, but to so little effect that they seem gimicky now.

Here's hoping that #20 on this list is more satisfying!

(I remember reading Rez Sisters for the first time in 2000, soon after I first moved to Kingston. It seems to me that one of my peers, Sam, who did his thesis on Native Canadian Lit. recommended it.)

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