LISTEN: A terrifying tale of a dark Cree spirit comes to the Westbury in Edmonton

Monday, November 20th, 2017 9:57pm


Image Caption

Playwright Reneltta Arluk.


By Staff

With files from Jeremy Harpe of CFWE-FM


A monster has taken over the house; a cannibal of such vile greed and self-interest that it will kill and kill, and consume whatever it can, even its own lips. 

The Wihtiko, a dark and destructive Cree spirit with an insatiable appetite for human flesh, has grown out of a war-ravaged landscape, and has consumed a great warrior, Macikosisân. Together, Macikosisân and his pregnant wife Kâwanihot Iskwew plot to kill their chief for their own selfish gain.

Berry Belinsky (Métis, Cree, Ukrainian with roots in Fishing Lake) directs Pawâkan Macbeth: A Cree Tragedy, written by Reneltta Arluk. Set in Plains Cree territory in the 1870s, Arluk takes Cree history, legend and cosmology and re-envisions Shakespeare’s tale of a politically ambitious man, thirsty for power, and the ruthless wife that spurs him on to murderous ends.

Pawâkan Macbeth is a story inspired by Elders from Frog Lake First Nation.

“We Cree have a legend of the Wihtiko,” says Owen Morris, an English Teacher at Chief Napeweaw School at Frog Lake First Nation. The more he eats, the hungrier and bigger he gets.

“My students always draw a comparison between the Wihtiko and Macbeth. Macbeth relates to many themes that are prevalent in Cree legends: greed, loyalty, love, horror, and balance,” he explained.

Pawâkan is a Cree spirit that comes to a person during their rite of passage. Playwright Arluk (Inuvialuit, Cree, Dene) describes it as a guide of sorts, which reveals itself in the time of need.

“The Wihtiko can come to you as your Pawâkan, and we are told that it needs to be rejected then. I ask, what happens when it arrives and takes you when you are most vulnerable?”

We learn the terrifying consequences of accepting Wihtiko in Pawâkan Macbeth, which opens for school performances tomorrow and to the general public in Edmonton at the Westbury Theatre at 10330 84 Ave. on Nov. 23.

Tickets are available at the Fringe Theatre Adventures box office

The play has an excellent cast of 11 performers from across Canada, all with some Cree heritage, Belinsky tells Jeremy Harpe of CFWE-FM. 

The project has been designed to work in school gyms or fieldhouses or different centres across Western Canada, so a tour is also in the works.