Review: A Soldier's War
Saskatchewan-based Strikes Twice Productions’ A Soldier’s War provides a deeply personal exploration of the impact of war on individual soldiers. Based on letters written by the playwright, Josh Ramsden’s, (also cast as Frank) grandfather during World War II, the play follows five soldiers as they set out to fight (and die) for their country, from basic training to armistice. The use of the letters as soliloquy, interspersed with ensemble scenes of battle and daily life, serve to create a fugue-like effect of voices that is at times darkly funny and at others, deeply moving.
The sparse crate set and simple fringe-style lighting serve the play well contrasted against the immaculate period costuming by Terri Morgan. The staging is largely conventional and the combat scenes and elaborate battle soundscapes at times feel a bit superfluous, but as this is a war play I suppose they are required. While the play at time loses me here it more than makes up for earning each heart-wrenching twinge with the strength of its quieter moments. The ensemble cast play off each other well, their timing and presence clearly honed during their cross-Canada tour (Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and finally Vancouver). Devin Wesnoski provides a stand-out performance as Leslie, delivered with an earnest intensity that is at times tragically painful to watch. It is through Leslie’s final moments on stage that the play seems to earn its most profound message: for some, the echoes of war change them so much there is no such thing as going home. Like his inescapable memories, the look on Wesnoski’s face as the lights fade to black remains with the audience long after the curtain call.
A Soldier’s War plays at the Waterfront Theatre as part of the Vancouver Fringe Festival until September 17th. After each show, the cast collects donations for Wounded Warriors Canada, a charity supporting veterans suffering from PTSD and other mental health issues. For more information about Wounded Warriors please go to https://woundedwarriors.ca/.