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theatre review

Since its auspicious debut in 2007, Vern Thiessen's powerful play Vimy has been making the rounds of Canadian theatres. And in this carefully detailed Blyth Festival production, artistic director Eric Coates pays loving homage to the great Canadian play.

Vimy is almost stream of consciousness: Four survivors of the battle are in a hospital, looked after by a caring nurse; the scene keeps shifting from those men to episodes in their past, the nurse's past and the actual preparation for Vimy and its aftermath.

Gillian Gallow's atmospheric set is comprised of four beds with foot lockers, overshadowed by tall shelves filled with stacks of white material that evoke images of bed sheets, bandages and shrouds.

The key, though, is how Coates cleverly stages the constantly changing time frames within a frozen set. His cast is also superb.

As for approach, the 1917 Battle of Vimy Ridge might be a defining moment in Canadian history, but Thiessen provocatively mixes patriotism here with a sense of the horror of war.

Appropriately, Blyth Memorial Hall was built to honour the fallen of the First World War. And the plaques with the names of the dead, usually in the foyer, are incorporated into the set by being placed on the side walls of the stage.

In this moving production, the dead are truly with us.

Vimy

  • Written by Vern Thiessen
  • Directed by Eric Coates
  • Featuring Mark Crawford, Sébastien David, Meegwun Fairbrother, Greg Gale, Gil Garratt and Tova Smith
  • At Blyth Memorial Hall in Blyth, Ont.

Vimy continues at the Blyth Festival until Aug. 6.