Based on the wartime letters and stories from playwright Josh Ramsden’s grandfather (the grandson also directs and performs in the play), A Soldier’s War is at times a devastating memoir of the realities of war.
Interspersed with the reading of the letters, are reenactments of key moments of five young men shipped off from Canada to the front lines in Europe.
While this structure does get a little repetitive, it is at times deeply moving as the men recount the mundane to the cruel realities of war.
Not much older than the countless men who went to fight in World War II, the ensemble – Devin Wesnoski, Kyle Kuchirka, Donny Ready, Torien Cafferata & Ramsden – are uniformly terrific.
While some of the characters are archetypes we have seen before, there is a reverence and honesty which permeates through the performances of this cast.
There is little doubt not all of the five young men will make it home in the end. Ramsden’s light touch as both playwright and director in dealing with the inevitability of death is both moving and understated.
There is also a moment where death visits those left at home; surprisingly it is one of the plays most exquisitely realized moments, thanks to Cafferata’s performance.
Special mention has to go to the show’s lighting and sound designer, Jared Beattie, as well as the techs at the Waterfront Theatre. Evocative as it was visceral, creating an effective sound and lighting design in a festival setting is no easy feat, especially when stages are shared among a number of productions.
A Soldier’s War was not only a great start to the 2017 Vancouver Fringe Festival, it is a rarity in a festival traditionally filled with one-person shows.
This loving memoir of a grandfather is highly recommended. Be sure to bring some tissues.
A Soldier’s War, written and directed by Joshua Ramsden. A Strikes Twice Productions presentation. On stage at the Waterfront Theatre (1412 Cartwright St, Granville Island) as part of the 2017 Vancouver Fringe Festival. Visit http://vancouverfringe.com for tickets and information.