Unity' gazes into the past

Did you ever, in a pensive moment, gaze into the faces on an old sepia photo and wonder what those people were actually like? In Unity(1918) they come to life and theyre wonderful and sweet and funny and vulnerable and brave and full of fun. Playwright Kevin Kerr won the 2002 Governor Generals Award for Drama for his beautiful Y2K play, and very well deserved it was. Unity is small town in Saskatchewan and in 1918 the remote community, along with the entire world, came face to face with two apocalyptic tragedies, World War I and the Spanish flu epidemic. This is the tale of how they struggled to cope.

The Spanish Flu was the deadliest outbreak of an infectious virus in recorded history and it reached every corner of the globe, aided by troop movements at the tail end of the war. In the cruelest cut of all, the virus targets were not the old and infirm as might be expected from previous pandemics. Instead, the victims were mainly young adults, the flowers of the forest. This Persephones Productions presentation provides us with a compassionate insight into that sorrowful time.

The talented and energetic cast of seven players will delight theatre-goers, with not a wrong foot, nor a sour note to be found even on opening night. Directed by Persephones founder and artistic director Gabrielle Soskin, this production is nothing short of brilliant; Soskin, a graduate of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, should be thrilled and audiences are certain to be appreciative. Kathleen Staverts captivatingly poignant performance as Beatrice was especially moving, and the one-ring-a-dingy, two-ring-a-dingy telephone operators were an inspired comic relief background, played to perfection by Rebecca Croll and Gilda Monreal.

In Greek mythology, Persephone, Goddess of the soul, is the possessor of its dark and frightening wisdom. Persephone Productions was created in 2000 to showcase emerging professional theatre artists. The company is committed to doing excellent plays that are innovative and of social and literary significance. If Unity(1918) is a harbinger of things to come, it bodes well for the coming season in Montreal English theatre. It sets the bar really high, however, and will surely be a hard act to follow. Kudos to everyone at Persephone, and keep up the good work.

Unity(1918) is playing in the charming and very comfortable Hydro Quebec Theatre at the Monument National, 1182 Boulevard St. Laurent in Montreal with evening performances (8:30 pm): Oct. 3,4,5,6 Matin饠(2 pm): Oct. 7.

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