Everyone has a different bus trip technique. For some, it’s a chance to catch up on a book, email and the news. For others, a chance to enjoy the view or ‘zone out’ before getting to their destination. Every new stop brings potential interruptions—perhaps someone panhandling, or even just wanting to sit next to you and chat. Tales of an Urban Indian reminds us that everyone has a story to tell, where ‘tuning in’ to the chatty person next to you may be the best possible investment of your time. They may make you laugh, and may even make you cry, but they’ll certainly give you food for thought. Tales of an Urban Indian (City Bus) is a not-to-be-missed experience: a one-man, 20+ character, 90-minute tragi-comic show on a moving bus.
Yes. That's right. This Translink bus does move. We all joined the bus at Stop 15, and took a journey around Brisbane (complete with occasional stops), fully immersed in this memorable show.
Simon Douglas (Craig Lauzon) is a contemporary Canadian First Nations man, whose conversation charts a life that began on a British Columbian Reserve, and moved to the streets of downtown Vancouver. There are very few props in this immersive performance: a backpack (containing only a few pictures/photographs, and a bottle), a bus, and a well-judged soundtrack (with great stage/bus management by Erica McMaster). But that is all Lauzon needs to conjure up a cast of perhaps 20, and a story about ‘choices.’
This is serious stuff. Set in an environment where suicide can be contagious, and drugs and alcohol appear to be an inevitable path. Tales of an Urban Indian (City Bus) is a story about the lived experience of a First Nations man—including his experience of the challenges of racism, homophobia, discrimination, survival and identity.
But it is also very funny. Highlights for me were the appearances of Simon’s priest, and of his friends Daniel and Nick. And also of the many women in his life: including Rhonda (his agent), Brenda (the love of his life), and his grandmother (kyé7e, complete with the ‘fly-swatter of fury’).
The possibly semi-autobiographical script is well-crafted (Darrell Dennis), and the play is sensitively directed (Herbie Barnes). Lauzon offers an acting masterclass: using the space well, connecting with individual audience members and commanding the space through occasionally athletic moves. We all laughed, some of us cried—and I am certain we all came away thinking about our ‘meeting’ with Simon, and about the First Nations experience in Australia. The 2pm, 11 May 2019 show in Brisbane was the 500th performance of this play—which has travelled across Canada and further afield. Every show will be different: different cities, different views, different buses, and different times of day or night. Most importantly, there will be a different experience for each member of the audience. A big audience will restrict the space for movement, a smaller audience will have a more intimate connection with the performance. But what every show will have in common is an up close and very personal insight into aspects of the lived experience of First Nations people.
Don’t avoid it because you think its serious stuff. Don’t avoid it because you think its ‘just’ about Canada. Go because you get to see a great, often-funny, immersive Anywhere Festival event.
Verdict: A tour de force. Take your school group. Bring your friends. Go. Don’t miss this bus.
Audience tip: 90 mins. 12+ some coarse language, and adult themes (alcohol, drug and sexual references). Be on time (no one wants to miss the bus). The meeting point is Stop 15, New Farm (outbound—that is, adjacent to New Farm Park). Tickets are available at https://anywhere.is/listings/urbanindian/ ($32). Further performances twice a day (2pm and 7pm) on 12 May and then 14-19 May.
The reviewer caught the Saturday 10 May 2019 bus (2:00pm).
Pictures Credit: Creative Futures Photography.