The Cenotaph Project may very well be the most accurate depiction of how youth view the Second World War, and how they could view it after seeing this latest production from Theatre By The Bay.
Iain Moggach’s first swing as the new artistic director of the local theatre company is a home run with his brave use of students and young actors and the chances taken on allowing them all to imagine how their character’s may have lived.
The talk of soldiers and veterans of war can often be touchy to some, and Moggach’s troupe does a great job humorously, respectively and, sometimes, painfully seeing what they may have been like.
More than any other of the TBTB’s war stories, you will leave the play knowing a little more about some of the names on the street signs in your neighbourhood as The Cenotaph Project dives into why D'Ambrosio Drive, Orok Lane and Irwin Drive got their names.
Taken from the pages of Clint Lovell’s book, The Boy From Barrie, created by Danielle Joy Kostrich and directed by Leah Holder, The Cenotaph Project takes TBTB artists and Eastview Secondary School drama students to investigate the legacy of the Second World War in 2019.
Names from the downtown cenotaph were chosen and researched, then combined with details from historical writings and with some vision from the actor portraying each person.
In a bit of luck and planning, actor Gabriella Circosta passionately connects to her subject, Dominic D’Ambrosio, and is able to dive into a soldier who shares her Italian heritage.
Casting by TBTB is at its peak once again, as the high-energy tempo of Avi Petliar and the methodical stage presence of Keelan Ballantyne give the characters they portray, brilliant levels that play off each other well whenever they are in the same scene.
A combination of artillery fire and cellphone ringing adds a dimension to the play that makes scenes moving back and forth through time easy to follow.
While TBTB has used time-jumping before to tell the stories of local veterans, it has never been done as perfectly as this and the overlapping of the two eras is simply fantastic.
Throughout the play, issues that are of importance today are shown to have been just as important in the in the 1940s, allowing the audience to make a personal connection to the scene and emotion of the actor.
As well, the question is asked ‘do you really have to go and die to get your name engraved in stone’ and is answered powerfully by character Muriel McArthur (portrayed by Drew Carter) as the local heroine shows that, as usual, historical women are usually more bad ass the men they stood behind.
Alex Clay, Alex Hurst, Alyssa Bartholomew and Madison Stewart round out the rest of the cast. Each one portrays a character who deals with a huge amount of self-doubt and uncertainty of their soldier’s place in history, yet we get four completely different views that make the journey poetic in each telling.
Theatre By The Bay seems to do a story on war in each season they present, and if you have decided to skip this one for whatever reason, you are doing the history of the city’s heroes and disservice. The Cenotaph Project is unlike any other military story the production company has done and the most unfortunate thing about it is that it is being showed in the summer as every high school student, teacher and parent needs to see this play.
The question asked most in this play is What Do You Know About The Second World War and the answer is irrelevant until you have seen the young people in The Cenotaph Project show you what they learned and felt as they journeyed through books, newspaper clippings and their own imagination as to just who were the people who grace our local cenotaph.
The Cenotaph Project runs everyday (except Monday, July 22) until Sunday, July 28 at the Five Points Theatre in downtown Barrie, with prices set at $33 and $39.
Head to the website for days, times and ticket availability.