Western Canada Theatre brings WWI history to life

Vimy sheds a personal light on the lives affected by the horrific Battle of Vimy Ridge

The cast gave a sobering performance dedicated to those who lost their lives at Vimy (WCT/Barbara Zimonick)

Western Canada Theatre has brought to life the horrors of Canadian history in their production of Vimy. Directed by WCT artistic director, James McDonald, the production portrays the victories and losses of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917.

While advertised as a romantic take on those who fought in battle, Vimy was much more than that. The production showed a beautifully heartbreaking story of the reality that these individual soldiers faced. By taking on racial struggles, national conflicts and battles with sexuality, Vimy was able to take a peek at a small cross-section of what those who were at Vimy faced.

The production used the aftermath of the fight to show us the physical and psychological effects that this battle imposed upon these soldiers.

Vimy follows four main characters, all different in their physical and mental wounds. Taking place mainly in the medical room that they eventually ended up in, the four relive countless times their past and their regrets while still being able to find little pockets of happiness.

The soldiers stand ready for the four-day battle of Vimy. From left to right: Nathan Carroll, Mark Ford, Christopher Mejaki, Lucy McNulty, Gaelan Beatty and Jacob Woike. (WCT/Barbara Zimonick)

Following the four men, Will (Jacob Woike), Mike (Christopher Mejaki), Sid (Nathan Carroll) and Jean-Paul (Mark Ford) the audiences get a taste of the uniqueness of these Canadian soldiers. The audience also gets to see the chaos of being a war nurse with Clare, played by Lucy McNulty, a character that acts as the glue holding these men together, both physically and emotionally.

From eastern Canada with Will from Ontario to western Canada with Sid from the frigid Winnipeg, Vimy depicted the geographical magnitude that the battle held as well.

It wasn’t just the geographical scope that Vimy portrayed either but also the racial identity of Canada. Mike, an Indigenous soldier, struggled with slurs and questions of why he was even there.

Vimy also showed the national conflicts of the Francophone Canadians versus the rest of the English speaking nation. Jean-Paul showed the audience the feeling of being a second-class citizen, even in a war that he had every right to be fighting in. His struggles with language and the feeling of being different transferred over to the battlefield.

The timing of this sobering production could not have been better. Fast approaching is the 100th anniversary of the of the end of the First World War. McDonald explained in his note to the audience that, “we are committed to bringing you plays that explore the many aspects of the Canadian experience.”

“Remembrance can sometimes be an abstract concept. Although we play songs, lay wreaths and mark the sobering statistics, a play like Vimy allows us to personally identify with a few of the people most affected by the war with a representation of a small cross-section” McDonald explained in his artistic director’s notes.

Vimy showed the devastating reality of the Battle of Vimy Ridge by giving us a peek behind the curtains at the crushing effects on each soldier. In a beautifully written play, you’re transported into their shoes as they march towards a historically brutal battle.

Vimy will be playing until Oct. 20 at the Sagebrush Theatre. Tickets are available at wctlive.ca or by calling the Western Canada Theatre Live! box office at 250-374-5483.