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Sarah Finn, John Ng, Drew Moore.  Photo: GCTC/Andrew Alexander
Sarah Finn, John Ng, Drew Moore. Photo: GCTC/Andrew Alexander

Theatre Review: "This Is War" at the Great Canadian Theatre Company

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"This is War" by Canadian playwright Hannah Moscovitch, at the Great Canadian Theatre Company through Feb. 23, takes a bleak and uncompromising look at individual soldiers under the pressure of combat.

Framed by interviews with an unseen journalist, the four Canadian soldiers look back at an incident that occurred in a remote corner of Afghanistan involving them, Afghan forces and the Taliban. The brief interviews are interspersed with scenes that re-live portions of the incident, some re-running two or even three times from different points of view a la "Seven Samurai."

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Reported by

Connie Meng
Theatre Critic

John Ng & Drew Moore. Photo: GCTC/Andrew Alexander
John Ng & Drew Moore. Photo: GCTC/Andrew Alexander
The cast is uniformly strong. All four characters are disconnected from both themselves and reality, even the innocent and naïve Jonny, well-played by Drew Moore. Brad Young gives a subtle performance as the medic Chris, who tries to keep everyone together and ultimately fails. As the damaged Tanya, Sarah Finn is a strong example of how they have become morally unmoored. For her, sex serves only as a momentary distraction, as it also does for the Sergeant. John Ng gives a powerful performance as the complex Sergeant. His scene with the wounded Jonny shows us another side of this fierce veteran.

Brian Smith's uniform costumes are authentically drab and bulky. His set consists of a sand-colored rectangular floor and three wooden boxes, with black wing curtains and upstage a scrim back-drop. Jock Munro's elegant lighting provides the rest of the set, with clearly defined areas and a series of beautiful mood-setting projections on the back-drop. Steven Lafond has composed lovely elegiac music for the opening scene and his sound throughout adds to the production without ever distracting.

Director Eric Coates has done a fine job of staging and directing "This is War." He and his actors have made the characters strong and believable. His creative staging keeps the pace moving. The depiction of Jonny's wounding is particularly effective.

The play has a couple of nice moments of humor – perhaps we could have used a few more. However, this is a powerful play that brings to life the effects on the individual soldier both of combat and the necessity of making split-second decisions. To quote the playwright, "One Sergeant said to me, 'You make the call you can live with." "This is War" shows us that sometimes that's not possible.

On a scale of one to five the GCTC production of "This is War." gets four and three-fourths solar panels.


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