The character Almighty Voice is based on a real man, a Cree warrior who lived on the One Arrow Reserve. Not much is known about him. We do know that he was arrested for killing a cow. He managed to escape, with mounties in hot pursuit. It took nearly two years for law enforcement to catch up with him. He and two other warriors were ultimately killed but it took a hundred mounties and a cannon to do so.
Governor General nominated writer, Daniel David Moses, uses this story as a launching off point for his play about love. Almighty Voice meets his match in White Girl, they fall in love and start a life together. The play melds together two very different styles from one act to the next. The first half is a historical retelling of the manhunt of Almighty Voice and the second half, which is a vaudevillian style show piece, illustrates the often tragic circumstances that Indigenous people faced in the 19th century and the eerily similar displays of racism they still face to this day.
Ken MacKenzie has a lovely and powerful set, mainly created with projections. He brings us inside a teepee looking up with projections that change according to the time of day and the season. Later, this changes to a moon that doubles as a drum.
Jani Lauzon’s direction was economical. What I struggled with in the show was the dynamic of the two actors in this very intimate two hander. James Dallas Smith plays Almighty Voice/Ghost and Michaela Washburn plays White Girl/Interlocutor. I didn’t feel that the two actors had much chemistry and it was hard to believe the love story. Washburn was supposed to be a girl of thirteen in the first act but reads as significantly older, so it was hard as an audience member to get past that.
The acting seemed forced and stilted and both actors seemed to drive the first act with no texture or variation of tone. They were somewhat more successful in the second act, where the style changed from naturalistic to the vaudevillian style. They nailed some of the very uncomfortable humour.
This is the first Indigenous play mounted at Soulpepper and I am hopeful that they will continue to bring these stories to the stage. I so wanted to like this play but it fell flat for me.
Find tickets here: https://soulpepper.ca/performances/almighty-voice-and-his-wife/7112
Cover photo: James Dallas Smith and Michaela Washburn. Photo by: Dahlia Katz