Sunday, 20 October 2013

Review: Armstrong's War

At the Arts Club Theatre Revue Stage until November 9, 2013

"World Premiere" although it has previously been seen and reviewed as “a fully staged workshop production (prior to its official World Première in October 2013 at the renowned Arts Club Theatre, Vancouver)” at the Finborough Theatre in London (with a different cast).

I had not read anything about this play before I saw it last night, so I had no expectations. In writing this review, I think it would be great if you could share that experience. But because it has received so little attention here so far - it opened on  October 17 - the theatre was mostly empty. It must be terribly dispiriting for actors to p[lay to rows of empty seats. But you wouldn't know that from the performances of the two person cast, who both give it their all. Great performances and really good chemistry. You can get a synopsis of the the plot from the review I linked to above. All you really need to know is that Michael (Mik Byskov) is a wounded Canadian soldier and Halley (Matreya Scarrwener) is the Pathfinder (a sort of superior Girl Scout) who reads to him.

Matreya is a 10th grade student at Kitsilano Secondary School and already has an impressive resume of tv work. It is her professional theatre debut. It is also Mik's debut on the Vancouver stage. And I will be willing to bet that we will be seeing a great deal more of both of them in future - and one day you will be able to say "I saw him/her when they were just starting out ..."

I did not know that Stephen Crane (author of the never out of print "Red Badge of Courage") was born after the Civil War - and indeed never fought in any war prior to writing it. Colleen Murphy has not fought in Afghanistan either, but I felt I understood a lot more about that conflict having seen this play of hers. It also makes you think very hard about the nature of truth and fiction. This play is fictional but has the ring of truth throughout. There are times when the audience laughs. Sometimes I laughed too - but at others I felt like shouting to the rest of them to stop laughing, such is the sensitivity of the subject matter. I have never fought in any war, but that does not reduce my appreciation of its horrors or reduce my desire for peace.

Please go see this play, and then tell your friends about it. It deserves to be seen by a much bigger audience. You will not regret the 90 minutes (no interval) you spend at the Revue Stage. Promise.


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