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Friday, June 14, 2024

Redpatch reveals hidden history

New play explores contributions of Canada's aboriginal people in World War I

As Canada’s sesquicentennial celebrations gain momentum this year, many are asking the same question: how can we celebrate the future of our country while recognizing the past?

With Redpatch, a world premiere production from Vancouver’s Hardline Theatre, Canadians are offered a chance to celebrate the increasing respect and diversity of our modern nation by shedding light on our past – namely the contributions of Canada’s aboriginal people in World War I.

Redpatch is the story of Halfblood, a young Metis soldier from the Nuu-chah-nulth nation of Vancouver Island, who volunteers to fight for Canada in the First World War. Set in both Canada and the battlefields of France, the play follows the experiences of this young solider as he endures the horrors of war.

Created by Raes Calvert and Sean Harris Oliver, Redpatch features multiple Canadian actors representing many indigenous groups from across the country. Built on a foundation of workshop and writing, the production is a true collaboration between artists of different cultures.

Its time. These stories are long overdue to be seen on stage. – Raes Calvert

“It explores the contribution of the aboriginal soldiers in the first world war by drawing attention to the fact that the aboriginal soldier’s involvement was not something we learned in history books or in the classroom,” says Calvert. “They were instrumental to the victories the Canadian forces had.”

Calvert says the physical movement of the piece is one of the key points he’s excited to see. Both directors are graduates of Studio 58 and have a strong grounding in physical work. The actors will create the animals of aboriginal story and myth as well as the battlefields of Europe, mixing familiar history with the narrative traditions of Canada’s aboriginal people.

“Most of what has been written about World War I was written by white men,” says Calvert. “During that time there was a lot of conflict between the government of Canada and the aboriginal peoples concerning the banning of potlatches and the extinguishing of aboriginal culture in indigenous communities. Keeping any light away from that would have been paramount to the leaders of the day. But it feels like Canada is moving towards reconciliation now or, at least, closer to that, with the government we have now. Its time. These stories are long overdue to be seen on stage.”

Hoping to take the show on tour to First Nations’ communities across Canada, Calvert and Oliver have already developed materials to engage young people including a graphic novel and interactive website.

“I’d also like to be able to see other groups take our scripts and see what they would do with it, “ says Calvert. “How they would make it their own. A lot of the physical theatre movements are in the script as stage directions because that’s how we work. I’d love to see what another group would do with that.”

Redpatch plays Presentation House Theatre  (333 Chesterfield Ave, North Vancouver) March 29 – April 9 and  Studio 16 (1555 7th Avenue West, Vancouver) April 12-16. Visit for tickets. Visit for more information.

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