A production that explores the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the experiences of First World War soldiers and the difficulties of connecting to the past is coming to the Port Theatre just in time for Remembrance Day.
On Nov. 9, Ontario musician Brendan McLeod and his band the Fugitives present Ridge, a production that combines storytelling, song and historical readings. McLeod intended to debut Ridge last year in Vancouver, but those plans were scrapped due to COVID-19. He’s since released a film version online but the Port Theatre show will be the first time it’s being performed before a live audience.
“I heard from many people all over the world about the show. But it was strange because they only saw the recorded version, nothing live,” McLeod said in an e-mail. “Myself and the band are incredibly excited to finally get the chance to do it for people, especially in a space as beautiful as the Port.”
McLeod said the storytelling covers what happened at Vimy as well as how the story has been passed down and what is accurate versus what isn’t. The songs in the show were all written by First World War soldiers.
“The goal of the show is to re-centre the story not from the perspective of political or military figures or even historians, but the soldiers who actually fought that battle,” McLeod said.
Reading his great-grandfather’s memoirs is what piqued McLeod’s interest in the battle. He said it helped him connect to the history and view that generation as “real people with passions and desires and dreams and fears similar to your own, as opposed to people from a bygone era you don’t understand.”
Although none of McLeod’s close family fought in the First World War, he said the war has nonetheless shaped his own culture and the culture of his parents and grandparents “a great deal.” That’s one of the topics he reflects on in Ridge.
“I talk a lot in the show about the mythology of Vimy, and what that erases from our history and what it props up, and what that does to our culture,” McLeod said. “And so I think everyone in Canada is deeply tied to events that came before us and it’s very instructive to look at our history and see where the gaps are in our understanding, to see how much of reality actually jives with what happens, and what that can tell us about ourselves.”
WHAT’S ON … Brendan McLeod presents Ridge at the Port Theatre, 125 Front St. on Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $27 for adults, $24 for members, $15 for students with valid ID, available from the Port Theatre. Livestream tickets also offered.