Women of the Fur Trade
|Women of the Fur Trade, RMTC, 📷 Dylan Hewlett|
The opening words to Women of The Fur Trade at RMTC Warehouse set the tone for the lighthearted play with whiplash syncretism of history and pop culture. This playfulness redeemed the heavy-handed moralizing that permeated the play.
It was to be expected in a piece taking the perspective of women in the early days of Manitoba, a play written by an Indigenous woman, that the action would obliquely, if not directly, urge action on the hard work of reconciliation. The women talked of belonging, of fearing for their lives, of land protection -- all issues as relevant and urgent today as they were back then.
The most surprising part of the play was the recasting of Thomas Scott as a friend of Riel's -- actually, a simpering acolyte -- whose relationship turns suddenly, resulting in the ending we know.
The most surprising joke in the play was about Jehosaphat, 4th kind of Judah.
The part I wasn't sure I agreed with was the retort that white people can't be racist. Racism is a system all tied up with power, so the argument is that only white people are racist because they benefit from these structures set up to oppress others. This is true. But to say only white people can be racist, Ibrahim X. Kendi argues, is to give them all the power and suggest no one else has any. And to suggest the latter robs them of agency and turns white people in superhumans (which certainly isn't true). It's certainly important for white people to realize that simply by existing, we have a lot of advantages. But no one people group is exempt from discriminating against others, and no person is above using the power they have -- however much or little of it -- to abuse others.
The women were sassy and smart as they addressed serious issues. Despite some lighting problems, and the occasional line that got lost in too quiet tones under audience response, the play was great. Recommended viewing.