This is War, the hard-hitting, raw and unnerving drama centred on Canadian Forces stationed in Afghanistan, is a show most assuredly likely to leave its mark on The Great Canadian Theatre Company and will be talked about for years to come.
Should you see it?
This is War revolves around a series of media interviews that members of the Canadian Forces are sharing about a botched joint-operation that led to casualties on both sides. Each character offers their unique perspective on what transpired up to, during and after the bungled mission. And as the characters reminisce, we see the painful realities of war through their eyes.
As the play starts, focus yourself. As the lights dim and the music picks up, close your eyes. Empty your mind. Ignore your surroundings. As the lights come up, slowly open your eyes. This mindful transition will help transport you from the theatre to the plains of Afghanistan as we join our comrades in arm. The stage lighting is immediately important to note. Each character is silhouetted by a rectangular prism of light; their shadows, lying like corpses in the coffin-shaped box of light behind them, foreshadow each character’s loss at the hand of war, whether it is their family, their sanity, their bodies, or their lives.
This is War emphasizes the ineptness and futility of war. Yet, by the end it leaves audiences feeling conflicted. Some of the characters’ despicable actions might be hard to understand for someone who has never been in their shoes. I’ve never experienced a militia shooting at me. I’ve never experienced a friend, or a co-worker, dying by my side or in my arms. I’ve never experienced the atrocities of war. And so the seemingly despicable actions of the characters became excusable.
The series of unfortunate events that led to the botched joint-operation seem almost too banal and trite, Yet the writing keeps the audience very involved.
This play was truly cathartic for me as I struggled with the inner demons of my own opinions of the military and war and saw both the the pro’s and con’s contrasting on stage with such passion. The only missteps this play took was in a slight miscasting of one of their soldiers, Sergeant Stephen Hughes, played by John Ng, who came off more robotic than human. Where Hughes failed, Brad Long, who played Sergeant Chris Anders, stepped in and shone. Anders, with the smallest role of four, played the anchoring character who was the most relatable. He was a character that I was able to find my solace in, who comforted the storm that raged in my own heart and mind. Anders is not only medic, psychologist and clean-up crew, but chaplain, and a sort of spiritual cleanser.
This is War is an important play to see. Go in as a blank canvas and let the show transform the way you think and feel towards the military and the sacrifices they make on a daily basis.
This is War was directed by GCTC Artistic Director, Eric Coates and runs at The Great Canadian Theatre Company from February 4, 2014 – February 23, 2014. Full deatils in our show article for This Is War.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to hear what you think. Did the plight of the characters resonate with you? Or did the whole thing come off a trite garbage? Let me know in the comments below!