The Seven Lives of Louis Riel: Historical Laughs

Ryan Gladstone has something under his nose.

Victoria: All I remember from grade-school history class was that Louis Riel was the champion of the Metis and died fighting for them. If that sounds familiar, this show isn’t going to fully enlighten you. You’re not going to get an A on an exam, but this will be the one time that a history lesson makes you laugh your ass off for a full hour.

Writer-actor Ryan Gladstone is magnetic. He starts off telling everyone the show is totally laid back. And it is. The fourth wall is nowhere to be seen, and it works perfectly. “This is a theatrical experimentation of shorts.” (He meant “sorts.”) “I’m drunk,” he adds, getting laughs. Asking the audience what they know of Riel, Gladstone warns those who don’t know much that they “will know less” by the end. Fortunately, this isn’t true.

This show is a hilarious Canadian Rashomon. Gladstone tells the story of Louis Riel seven times, from seven different characters’ point-of-view, in seven different genres. We get outlaw to hero, traitor to . . . alas, I can’t spoil his perfect ending. Each character he transforms into was a different witness to the life of Louis Riel. Gladstone sticks them into a genre situation unlike any textbooks ever described. John Schulz becomes a comic book superhero chasing his arch-nemesis Riel through four issues. Without spoiling anything more, Gladstone pulls out pop culture references and completely contrasting environments to that of old east Canada, leaving everyone rolling from laughs.

Perhaps some of the funniest moments come from his Q&A with the audience between stories. It’s your time to ask him what was true, what wasn’t or anything about Riel that’s nagging you. His excitement and knowledge of his subject matter is fun to see, even if he’s stumped, which I imagine is rare.

Gladstone alludes to the fact that he’s read all the book on Riel sold on and that they all depict Riel differently. This show may not be setting the record straight, but it is celebrating a great person in our history, as performed by the guy you wish had taught you every single subject in every grade of your school life. Don’t miss this brilliantly hysterical show or Riel himself may come for you. And you don’t want that.

For showtime information go here.

By James Roxby