Review: ‘The Herd’ is a bluntly honest, magnificently-designed production

Photo Credit: (left to right) Deneh’Cho Thompson, Danny Knight, Kathleen MacLean, Tracey Nepinak, and Amanda Trapp feature in Persephone Theatre’s ‘The Herd,’ running until Feb. 26, 2023. (PHOTO: Electric Umbrella/Liam Richards)

A striking set and an energized cast brought Saskatchewan playwright Kenneth T. Williams’ home-grown script to wonderful life Friday night at Persephone Theatre.

The Herd is not a story of heroes and villains, of everyone getting their just rewards (or just desserts). Instead, it’s a show that makes you stop and think on all the questions you’ve never felt comfortable answering — or even trying to ask — about Indigenous traditions and culture in the modern world.

The show centres on a First Nation in Saskatchewan taking care of a commercial bison herd they purchased. When two white bison calves are born, a geneticist from the community (Kathleen MacLean) does her best to keep the herd safe from the reckless mob excited for the spectacle and the European Union funders looking to cash in, while balancing her own beliefs and morals against the traditions of her community which consider the white calves a prophetic portent.

The Herd has little in the way of nuance, but bluntness isn’t always the worst thing. None of the characters are ever afraid to express how they feel. But once you get your brain around the lack of subtlety in the dialogue, the show opens up into an honest and direct conversation.

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