Something special happens when an audience gathers in an intimate setting to take part in the telling of a true story. The War Bride, beautifully written by New Brunswick native Erin Keating and skilfully directed by Andrea Arbour, is no exception. This particular production feels like an invitation to spend the evening with your gram with a pot of tea and her old photo album.
In a culture where there is a growing gap between generations spurred on by too many devices allowed around the family table this is a really important story to share. The War Bride tells the story of one of the estimated 48,000 young women who married Canadian servicemen during the Second World War, and eventually emigrated to Canada to join their new families.
We get to hear this story straight from Adele (Bet O’Toole) as she reminisces of the time she spent getting to know Norman (Scott Lilly) and Roger (Tyler MacLennan), two Canadian servicemen stationed in Britain during the war (Young Adele played by Gillian Graves).
Having hardened some after the loss of her family to the war, Adele is reluctant when she finds herself the object of Norman’s affections. But it doesn’t take long for his happy-go-lucky New Brunswick charm to soften her. What follows is the blossoming of their relationship, candidly captured by the camera-obsessed and ever-present best friend, Roger.
Of course, during such times of uncertainty, one can’t necessarily expect a happy ending, at least not the one you’d imagined. Adele finds herself a single mother before Norman has the chance to know he is a father. Roger, finding himself discharged after being injured during a bombing, suggests that Adele move to New Brunswick with him where she will have the support of Norman’s family.
O’Toole’s enchanting storytelling is brought to life not only through the accomplished enactments of Graves, Lilly, and MacLennan, but also by a series of photographs projected on the screen behind them. The effect is stunning as the audience actively shares in this bitter sweet tale.
It’s a tear-jerker for sure, but not due to mere sentimentality. It’s an accurate depiction of the real life struggles that men and women had to face during the war; how, in the midst of the terrors, they were still able to find love and recognized that regardless of the precariousness of the future, that they still needed to live for the present.
This is a significant piece of Canadian theatre that has the potential to touch audiences everywhere. You can experience this show Saturday, October 17th at 7:30PM at the BMO Theatre in Saint John, or next Wednesday, October 21st at 7:30PM at the Fredericton Playhouse.