Skip to main content

The Election's three-week run at Theatre Passe Muraille is perfectly timed to overlap with our current trip to the polls.

JOHN LAUENER/Handout

  • Title The Election
  • Written by Natasha Greenblatt and Yolanda Bonnell
  • Genre Comedy
  • Director Jennifer Brewin
  • Starring Augusto Bitter, Rachel Cairns, Joelle Peters, Anand Rajaram, Rose Stella and Courtenay Stevens
  • Companies Common Boots, Nightwood and Theatre Direct
  • Venue Theatre Passe Muraille
  • City Toronto
  • Year Runs to Sunday, Oct. 27

rating

The angriest confrontation in The Election, the new grassroots political play by Common Boots Theatre, isn’t between a Liberal and a Conservative. It’s between two young women, both intellectuals and feminists, who ought to be allies: Zoe, urban and Jewish, who is campaigning for the NDP, and Skye, an Anishinaabe from a northern reserve who refuses to vote.

Story continues below advertisement

Skye (Joelle Peters) argues passionately that white governments have betrayed and destroyed her people, and she’s not going to participate in their system. Zoe (Rachel Cairns) counters with equal passion that the environment is in peril and we need to put aside historical grievances and work together. As Cairns’s Zoe goes toe-to-toe with Peters’s Skye, the tension in the theatre is palpable. And to say how it’s resolved would be a spoiler.

Their flare-up is the only truly exciting scene in this otherwise insightful, but somewhat tepid, ground-level look at Canada’s last federal election. Its three-week run at Theatre Passe Muraille is perfectly timed to overlap with our current trip to the polls and, if nothing else, it’s a refresher on the issues and concerns of Canadians four years ago. Some we had forgotten, such as the Conservatives’ controversial proposal of a call-in line to report “barbaric cultural practices.” Others, such as combatting climate change, have only become more urgent.

The play is based on the experiences of a diverse group of theatre artists who were tasked with volunteering on campaigns for the three main parties during 2015. Playwrights Natasha Greenblatt and Yolanda Bonnell, two of the participants, shaped the resulting observations into a dramatic script with input from the others.

While Zoe has been sent to a northern riding by the New Democrats, back in downtown Toronto, Terry (Augusto Bitter), who is Jewish and gay, is working for a Conservative candidate. And somewhere in the suburbs, Samraj (Anand Rajaram), an apolitical actor, has reluctantly agreed to help a fellow South Asian running for the Liberals.

As they work the phones, put up signs and knock on doors, the characters confront ordinary Canadians’ concerns and wrestle with their own convictions.

JOHN LAUENER/Handout

As they work the phones, put up signs and knock on doors, they confront ordinary Canadians’ concerns and wrestle with their own convictions. Terry finds himself in a budding relationship with Landon (Courtenay Stevens), a sports-loving, beer-chugging friend of the Ford family, while wondering if he can belong to a party supported by homophobes and evangelical Christians. Samraj rediscovers the immigrant community he’s rejected and his long-dismissed Tamil roots. Zoe’s preconceptions of Indigenous people get a shakeup from Skye and from Skye’s wise grandmother, Milly (Rose Stella), who facilitates a visit to the reserve.

The show’s gung-ho gang of actors, directed by Jennifer Brewin, also fill minor roles and attempt some broad parodies of politicians and pundits, from Justin Trudeau and Tom Mulcair to the CBC’s Rosemary Barton and right-wing bloviator Ezra Levant. TPM’s mainspace has been reconfigured for an in-the-round staging, with a set by Anahita Dehbonehie suggesting a campaign headquarters, but Brewin doesn’t confine her cast to it – they swarm all over theatre, often thrumming like bees to create a vocal score.

There is a strong – and welcome – emphasis on the Indigenous perspective, and not just politically. The show opens with an Indigenous-inspired chorus that frames Canada as an ancient, long-occupied (and much-mutilated) land. But the fact that the show’s creators were confined to campaigns in Ontario means we don’t really get the big picture. There are no viewpoints from Quebec or the West.

Story continues below advertisement

Common Boots – which has produced the show in conjunction with the Nightwood and Theatre Direct companies – did a similar piece a few years back called The Public Servant, a comedy based on the real lives of Ottawa’s federal employees. The Election is likewise valuable in showing us the ordinary people who do the hard slogging that makes a democracy work. You only wish it had more scenes, such as the one between Skye and Zoe, that offer compelling debate. Lord knows, we’ve been starved for it in this campaign.

There is a strong – and welcome – emphasis on the Indigenous perspective, and not just politically.

JOHN LAUENER/Handout

The Election continues to Oct. 27. (passemuraille.ca)

Live your best. We have a daily Life & Arts newsletter, providing you with our latest stories on health, travel, food and culture. Sign up today.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter