In the midst of a tumultuous American election, the Syrian refugee crisis and violent conflicts the world over, the average Canadian does not want to hear another story about war.
However, this is exactly what Redeemer University College did with their fall mainstage production of Robert Caisley’s Front, a play that revolves around the Second World War. Close to 900 attendees turned up for the show during its four-night stand in the Redeemer auditorium.
“Stories of war are part of the shared narrative of our country’s history,” says Ray Louter, professor of theatre arts and communication. “In the case of Front, we have a play that emphasizes the stories and experiences of the people who remain at home but who are, nevertheless, affected in shocking ways by the experiences of what we often see as the more dramatic battlefront.”
“Front deals with a part of WWII that does not get a lot of airtime—the impact that war has on individuals, both costly and horrific.”
Front is set in the city of London, under constant bomb siege during the Blitz. Judith Gently makes bomb detonators in a city factory while her husband, who has been enlisted for the British war effort, is missing. Her two children are being forced to grow up much too quickly.
The personal aspect of the story captivated director Richard Tomlin ‘96, a theatre arts, English and education graduate who now teaches at dramatic arts at Guido de Brès Christian High School in Hamilton. “When I came across Front I was drawn to it,” he says. “It deals with a part of WWII that does not get a lot of airtime—the impact that war has on individuals, both costly and horrific.”
150 high school students from UMEI High School (Leamington), Guido de Brès (Hamilton) and King’s Christian Collegiate (Oakville) attended a matinée performance on Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday’s opening night gave way to three more evening performances in the Redeemer auditorium.
With a cast of 14 students and a running time of nearly two and a half hours, Front’s length does not detract from its value. It asks a difficult question: where is the war actually being waged? “War affects everyone,” continues Ray Louter. “Front thus acts as a strong expression of the mission of Redeemer to understand and respond to human culture.”
Tomlin echoes these sentiments. “As an educational institution, Redeemer is at its best when it promotes a deeper understanding of the fallen world that we struggle and strive to live in as God’s children,” he says. “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of that process.”