Theatre reviews: Deer Woman and Pathetic Fallacy, Canada Hub @ King's Hall, Edinburgh

Cherish Violet Blood delivers an unforgettable performance as a Blackfoot warrior out to avenge her sister in Deer Woman. Picture: Contributed
Cherish Violet Blood delivers an unforgettable performance as a Blackfoot warrior out to avenge her sister in Deer Woman. Picture: Contributed
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The number, she tells us, keeps changing, usually in an upward direction. According to the publicity for Deer Woman, though, the story told here by Lila, a “proud Blackfoot woman”, is about the disappearance of just one of 1,600 officially recognised missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in Canada.

Deer Woman * * * *

Pathetic Fallacy * * *

Canada Hub @ King’s Hall (Venue 73)

The missing girl in question is Lila’s younger sister Hammy, who disappeared as a teenager while Lila was on army service in Afghanistan; but although Lila’s warrior vengeance against the man she believes killed her sister both prompts her to record her 80-minute monologue, and provides Tara Beagan’s play with its intentionally shocking conclusion, the richness of the story lies mainly in the detail of Lila’s upbringing as an indigenous girl in British Columbia – in her parents’ broken marriage, the sexual abuse she and her sister suffered, and the hunting trips with their father that turned Lila into the warrior woman she has become.

The extreme violence of the play’s conclusion probably represents a strategic mistake, and a distraction; there were reasons, from Medea onwards, why the ancient Greeks rarely attempted to present on stage the horrifically violent acts of revenge their dramas often describe. Yet in Andy Moro’s intense production for Article 11 Theatre, Cherish Violet Blood delivers an unforgettable performance as Lila, her face as she records it on her phone projected huge on the walls of her forest hide, sometimes frozen at a particular moment, sometimes replaced by haunting green infra-red night images of deer in the forest.

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Why do we continue to eviscerate beautiful animals for food and pleasure, yet balk at the very idea of giving the same treatment to human beings who have committed horrific crimes? The play has no answer. But it forces us to confront the age-old question of how far a woman’s vengeance should go, after centuries of sickening abuse by men; of where we draw the line, and why.

Pathetic Fallacy, by contrast, is a playful one-hour theatre essay about the weather, and about middle-class angst over population growth and the state of the planet. Created by Anita Rochon of the Vancouver-based Chop Theatre, the show is presented each night by a different actor always known as “Anita”, who receives instructions through an ear-piece about how to interact with Rochon’s medley of green-screen images featuring – among other things – weather forecasts of every decade since the 1950s, giant images of hurricanes, an interview between Rochon and her dad, and various weather-related works of art.

It’s all thoroughly laid-back, in other words, and far too self-consciously meta-theatrical. Yet its use of the green screen and the unprepared actor is often ingenious and entertaining; and like Deer Woman, it confirms contemporary Canadian theatre as a place where the big issues of the day – whether handled lightly or seriously – are ever-present, and rarely ignored. - Joyce McMillan

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Until 25 August . Today 2:30pm (Deer Woman) and 5pm (Pathetic Fallacy)