Play relives Vimy Ridge

The Kings Town Players’ newest show revisits World War I

Vimy is running at the Grand Theatre from Sept. 26-29, Oct. 3-6.
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In Vimy, the character can’t forget the World War I battle they survived—their haunted memories are “all stuck in here.”

Running from Sept. 26-29 and Oct. 3-6, Vimy is The King’s Town Players’ newest show. Directed by Chris McKinnon, the play brings playwright Vern Thiessen’s epic exploration of trauma and memory in World War I to the stage at the Baby Grand Theatre.

The show delves into the human stories behind the nation-defining battle, told through the eyes of four Canadian soldiers and a nurse.

As each character struggles to forget the horrors they faced, they’re forced to remember and reenact their memories, both for their fellow characters and for the nation.

Throughout Vimy, Thiessen attempts to humanize the soldiers in the Battle of Vimy Ridge, studying the pre-and post-war memories of six suffering Canadians. Through it all, Thiessen reveals what these individuals share most is their heartbreak and suffering, not patriotism.

Exploring this shared memory, Nurse Clare tends to four injured soldiers: Jean-Paul, Sid, Will and Mike. Each of them suffers from different mental and physical injuries following their trauma.

Initially the characters claim to not remember the battle, but as the play progresses their memories are triggered—leading them to relieve atrocities of the war.

The play becomes a communal memory, shared between the four patients and Nurse Clare, who lost her lover in the Battle of Vimy.

Through each character, Vimy explores the overlooked aspects of the mythologized battle. Issues such as sexism, racism, homophobia, and xenophobia are explored with the sympathy required to understand the horrors of war.

The audience is fully immersed in this human and real visual replication of the atmosphere of World War I, supported by the play’s strong technical work.

The lighting and sound create a wide range of visual effects to recreate the atmosphere of ongoing warfare. Red lights evoke blood as fluorescent green lights reflect the war’s deadly gas attacks. This pivotal use of lighting distinguishes between the present and past memories each character experiences.

Meanwhile, the staging of a four-bed hospital setting allows complex scene changes to occur seamlessly while reminding the audience of the violent horrors of war and the reasoning behind their medical unrest.

The constant change of pace in narrative and lack of repose demonstrates the soldiers’ unrest and pure exhaustion, leading to injury and loss of loved ones.

While the entire cast were an effective ensemble, Andy Pesz’s portrayal of the shell-shocked and excitable Jean-Paul stands out.

Playing a Québécois soldier suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, he captures the audience’s attention and makes it impossible to look away.

Jean-Paul’s internal conflict is portrayed externally through his crazed, arresting gaze, paired with constant full body tremors. It’s hard to overlook.

The cast’s other standout—Helen Marks’ Nurse Clare—gave a skillful glimpse into the private loss and pain that many women experienced during the war, while also working to heal the wounded.

This portrayal of troubled individuals in war-torn territory prompts the audience to honour our past and appreciate the present.

Vimy Ridge is often mythologized in the narrow focus on Canadian victory and the omission of death and suffering. The King’s Town Players honour the tragedies of warfare, while respecting the sacrifices soldiers made.

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