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Friday, June 14, 2024

Theatre review: Métis Mutt is a deeply personal and powerful piece of theatre

Sheldon Elter takes to the stage in a one-man show that will both break your heart and lift your spirit

Métis Mutt is both personal and extremely powerful. Elter tells his story, of growing up Métis (and never white enough, never Native enough), of dealing with an abusive father, and of all of the internalized racism that exists.

Directed by Ron Jenkins, the show is constantly changing, shifting from stand-up comedy to a musical number, to character vignettes and storytelling. Woven together seamlessly, by the end we come to see how all the pieces fit together.

As both writer and the performer, Elter’s performance is deeply personal and an honest telling of the world he grew up in. He takes us through his life with great ease and an open heart, sharing the road he has taken to overcome destructive paths.

Elter shifts effortlessly from one character into another, and from song into an intense memory.  While the material is dark, he brings a sense of humour to keep us laughing. He includes silly songs and moments of pop culture references.

The specificity of gestures and movement onstage highlight Elter’s skill. He is a talented performer who captivates the audience, never faltering in his 85 minutes alone onstage.

While the stories are carefully crafted and cleverly placed together, there were a couple that seemed to vanish and never were completed, including the spirit quest.

The set, created by Tessa Stamp, is simple but highly effective, with rocks piled up in a circle onstage and a backdrop that is projected on throughout. The rocks are utilized in moments throughout the performance. The projections, by Erin Gruber, help to set the mood and location. They are highly specific and guide the viewer into the worlds that Elter creates.

Métis Mutt highlights the resiliency that we all have, and the way that forgiveness and connection keep us strong. Even after years of destruction in his relationship with his father, Elter still shows love and forgiveness to him.

Métis Mutt stands out for its intensely personal nature, which creates a palpable connection between Elter and the audience. His level of vulnerability onstage is heartbreaking, with an ending that is incredibly moving. Métis Mutt is a powerful piece of theatre that will not soon be forgotten.

Métis Mutt, written and performed by Sheldon Elter. Directed by Ron Jenkins. A One Little Indian Production. Presented by the Firehall Arts Centre. On stage at the Firehall Arts Centre (280 East Cordova St, Vancouver) until May 5. Visit for tickets and information.

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