Gunshots, French prostitutes and scandal galore.
VideoCabaret blows up the Tank House Theatre once again in their latest revival of The Great War. After their recent successes of Trudeau and the FLQ and Trudeau and Levesque, VideoCabaret returns with another smash hit that will leave you longing till the boys come home.
This is but only one part of Michael Hollingsworth's Canadian history cannon, The History of the Village of the Small Huts, adding flair and colour to Canada's often dry history.
Directed by Hollingsworth and Deanne Taylor, The Great War comically chronicles the lead-up to Canada's involvement in the First World War at home, as well as in the trenches. Of the numerous historical characters that shape the production such as Sir Robert Borden (David Jansen) and Sir Wilfrid Laurier (Rick Campbell), the play also focuses on the elite and common lives of young men such as Lieutenant Robert Adams (Mac Fyfe) and Private Dave Anderson (Jamie Cavanagh).
Throughout the many fast-paced snapshots of historical scenes, a variety of subplots, both factual and fictional, are developed and contribute to this phenomenal never-before seen history.
The play opens to then-Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden and his wife Laura Borden (Linda Prystawska) indulging in a pleasant game of golf. But what would Canadian history be without some ripe French-English conflict? As the war begins to unfold, tensions surrounding French loyalty to the British crown are fueled by Henri Bourassa's (Jacob James) nationalist newspaper. It isn't until the end of the war, however, that the rest of Canada begins to feel the anti-colonial sentiment from their unrecognized efforts. Sam Hughes (Jamie Cavanagh) resigns, Colonel Arthur Currie (Rick Campbell) leads the Canadians, and Robert's heart is broken in this quick and quirky Canadian parody.
The success of the history plays stems from VideoCabaret's ability to take any historical figure and embellish their qualities beyond belief. Notable figures are viewed as flawed while the everyday Canadian rises to the surface, claiming the landscape. All members of the ensemble give outstanding performances as they switch between characters, blur gender lines, and provide continual bursts of laughter that have the power to shoot audiences from their seats. The scenes are quick but never rushed, providing for an appropriate understanding and an enjoyable experience.
Audiences are both educated and entertained with the exaggerated props and costumes that highlight the historical realities once faced. Prop Designer Brad Harley exaggerates everything from cigars and tanks to the fearful War Measures Act of 1914. The props are just as colourful as the characters, drawing vigorous attention to the circumstances being faced.
Astrid Janson and Melanie McNeill's costumes showcase an eccentric, historical account of common garb worn by Canadians during the period. Noble characters are embellished in dazzling sparkles to contrast with the common gloom of faded browns and greyish dullness.
Of the numerous honours that VideoCabaret succeeds at achieving, you will always know what to expect from this homegrown Canadian leader in the performing arts. A treat for both the eyes and the mind.
The Great War is playing at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts until May 14. For more information visit soulpepper.ca.