Review: Proud by Michael Healey at Rachel Browne Theatre

On Wednesday, I went to Proud by Michael Healey at Rachel Browne Theatre. (Disclaimer: for a legit fun school assignment!) How does it relate here? $10 cash at the door for students (with school ID), plus a little trip to Baked Expectations afterwards for a giant slice of Oreo cookie cheesecake that definitely fell from the heavens onto my plate… but back to why we’re here: Proud.

Proud is set in 2011, just after the Conservatives win a majority election, except that the NDP seats won in Quebec are Conservative. This means that Prime Minister Harper has a lot of unruly caucus members. It seems to me that Healey (playwright) makes this choice to amp up Harper’s character. (Read a quick description of Proudย here.) The play is centred around an MP, Harper, and his Chief of Staff.

Overall, I was not incredibly impressed with Proud. The main character, Jisbella, an unruly MP, prides herself on her self-reliance, yet she sexualizes herself – contradictory! The sexualization took precedence over the self-reliance. Self-reliance and sexualization don’t align in my books. Jisbella kept saying that Harper and Cary (Chief of Staff) were underestimating her, but she was with with Cary, and tried/did get with Harper. Maybe I’m a little naive to think that things like this don’t happen excessively in government (as the play promotes), but I highly doubt that Harper is doing it with MPs. I also have a lot of respect for our government leaders at all levels, whether I agree with them or not. They have an extremely difficult job, and certainly aren’t doing it for the money or fame. Showing that Harper is doing this is frankly unfair and wrong.

Healey makes a point to show how controlling Harper is of his party. It is relatively well known that Harper rules with a strong fist over his party, so I didn’t have a problem that foundation. Healey showed this well through throwing in some examples of Harper changing a Liberal to a Conservative and changing members’ seats in the House to have people he liked in his view point. It made sense for Harper to almost force Jisbella to resign as soon as he saw her personality (some of her characteristics taken straight from NDP members who won in Quebec ex. not campaigning, qualified or being in the riding). I thought that was an interesting aspect, and not too far out. I just didn’t care for her (a bit of over-acting) and how she sexualized herself, and to the extent Harper was taken.

I had relatively high expectations for Proud. I really liked the idea behind the play (I’m big into following politics!), but I thought it was unfair. I know it’s a play, and to make it interesting the playwright has to add some controversy. I’m just hung up on the conflict of Jisbella’s characteristics, and things Harper did, like making out with her.

I’ve been to a few plays (not in Winnipeg), but I mostly go to musicals. There’s been very few plays and musicals I didn’t like, and those I didn’t were for the same reasons as this – they were slightly offensive, and/or disrespectful. Like I said, I had high expectations, but Proud certainly didn’t live up to it. I rarely laughed at the jokes, and even found myself zoning out at points.

I often find I’m not this opinionated on these things, but this was one upsetting play. It brought out the feminist in me, and my odd Canadian patriotism. In the talkback session, Ross McMillan who played Harper said that being him didn’t change/affect his own political views and stances. I found that very interesting because of how strong McMillan’s Harper was.

McMillan’s mannerisms were on point! He said that he has a fascination with Harper and has studied him since the 2006 election. McMillan’s monologue at the beginning of Proud is fantastic. If anything, go for that. But I’d sneak out once it’s done.

Proud is running until November 16, 2014 at the Rachel Browne Theatre, 211 Bannatyne Ave. near Main St. in Winnipeg, MB.

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Cast and artistic director of Proud during talkback session November 12, 2014

Left to Right: Ardith Boxall (artistic director), Kevin P. Gabel (Jisbella’s son-Jake), Ross McMillan (Prime Minister Stephen Harper), Daria Puttaert (Jisbella Lyth), Eric Blais (Chief of Staff-Cary).

Photo taken on iPhone.

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