As an American expat unfamiliar with the pop-cultural aspect of Canadian politics, a lot of the jokes in Laureen: Queen of the Tundra went over my head. However, it is to the performers’ credit that this did not distract from their commentary about the fluidity of gender and culture, against the rigidity of modern politics.
This show had a great sense of pacing punctuated by confessional monologues in between political skits, shedding some light onto the person behind the persona. By raising questions about identity, whether Canadian, queer, or both, the show is inherently political and subversive, while also heartfelt and campy – a show not to be missed. (FBG)
As a Canadian, whatever that means, I found most of the political satire to be incredibly on-point. In particular, the running commentary on the Harper government’s refusal to launch an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women was sharp and well-executed.
As for the show’s title, the rumours about Laureen Harper’s sexuality are taken here as a given, although even those not up to speed on all the details will still get a laugh out of the show’s treatment of the Harpers. Other highlights include a performance of a Celine Dion interview, which is a genius idea, and a fair amount of archival news clips on the soundtrack, grounding the show in real-life events while calling attention to those same events’ inherent absurdity.
The confessional segments in which each performer explains how they came to drag are deeply personal and moving. With that said, other than one monologue about living in Montreal as an anglophone, the connection between these segments and the more overtly political ones takes more thought to grasp than a comedic whirlwind of a show being performed in a fully licensed bar can really allow in the moment. The only other real quibble I have with this show is the specific Celine Dion interview chosen for mockery – the woman has made enough ridiculous appearances on enough ridiculous talk shows that surely something about her life in Quebec could have been chosen, and been more germane to the theme of the show, than one in which she discusses her husband’s cancer diagnosis.
Minor quibbles aside, this is a fantastic show, which deserves to play to full houses on its final weekend, and which should frankly be revived in time for Canada Day. (KK)
Laureen: Queen of the Tundra plays until June 21st (and hopefully longer) at Café Cleopatra, 1230 St-Laurent. Regretfully, the venue is not wheelchair-accessible.
Felipe Gomez Bonilla is an experimental filmmaker, philosopher and critic from Los Angeles by way of Bogota. He is currently working on a hybrid film/play which details his experiences moving across the American continent over the past 20 years, and is excited to become reacquainted with the Montreal theatre community as a critic for the Fringe Festival. He can be found @kinosophist across social media.
Kristi Kouchakji is, among other things, a contributing editor at Art Threat, and can be tweeted at @badyogi (misogynists and MRAs need not apply).