Brendan McLeod of Vancouver-based band, The Fugitives, wanted to bring a different perspective to the Battle of Vimey Ridge in the uniquely uplifting production <em>Ridge.</em>

Brendan McLeod of Vancouver-based band, The Fugitives, wanted to bring a different perspective to the Battle of Vimey Ridge in the uniquely uplifting production Ridge.

Remembering, resilience and retelling: Nanaimo theatre shines a Spotlight on history

Port Theatre brings a different story to life: history with a human soul

Storytelling has been an artful form of entertainment throughout human history. A good story still captivates, but a well-told story comes to life before your eyes.

Just in time for Remembrance Day, The Port Theatre in Nanaimo brings “a respectful, uplifting reminder of the strength of the human spirit, its resilience, and the hope it inspires in a unique, touching production,” says Andrea Noble, Marketing and Community Outreach Coordinator.

Bringing to life the battle that is said to be “Canada’s coming of age” through the soldiers’ own words, Ridge, playing Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m., is a unique spoken-word-and-music theatre production that challenges the accepted mythology surrounding the battle of Vimy Ridge.

A different point of view

History is a story — told from a specific point of view, and over time a version becomes an accepted narrative — with specific narrators. Brendan McLeod of Vancouver-based band, The Fugitives, wanted to bring a different perspective to the battle through using a different narrator. During his research, he came across the many songs, and more specifically, the lyrics, penned by the soldiers in the trenches.

His initial idea was to create a spoken-word production, but the lyrics sparked the band’s musical inclinations and the concept expanded to include their particular style of Canadian folk music.

This is a history not told through the accounts of generals and leaders moving soldiers as pawns in a greater game, but by the men who were waiting to die, and hoping to survive. The result is a show that gives a unique version of the experiences of the soldiers in the trenches occupying the liminal space between life and death in a true no-man’s land.

History with a human soul

As one might expect, there’s a poignancy to the songs, but also irony, satire, humour and most importantly, hope. Even though Ridge was written before the pandemic, it’s impossible not to draw some comparisons even though the level of horror those young men experienced is, thankfully, beyond comprehension for most of us.

War, like disease, should be a great leveller, but then, as now, it’s hard to ignore the imbalance of power and the peril it creates for some while giving safety to others.

Though these men came from many different places, all were facing circumstances beyond their control, and were at the mercy of the powers that be and the vagaries of fate. War makes brothers of men who have never met. They mourn men they hardly know and those who will die before they are even dead.

Those young men were pulling together in unspeakable circumstances and these lyrical attestations they left behind are a testament to the resiliency of the human spirit — and exemplify hope for the future.

This is history with a human soul.

What really matters —then and now

Two years ago, it seemed unthinkable that we would live through a major historical event, and yet here we are. Like the way that war makes people rethink what really matters in life, the last year and a half has changed many perspectives. Ridge is a provocative reminder of what really matters in our past, our present and our future.

Learn more about the show and get your tickets today. Call the Port Theatre ticket centre at 250-754-8550 or email at tickets@porttheatre.com. Hours are Monday to Friday, 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and 2 hours before ticketed show times.

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