-by John Gillis
How and when do we forgive? When is it time to stay and when is it time to move on? How do we welcome newcomers and how do we deal with the violence of war?
Those are all big questions, and they are just some of those mined in Brenda MacLennan-Dunphy’s latest musical and dramatic production, Displacement.
The production, perhaps her most ambitious to date, was brought to the Strathspey Place stage twice last weekend.
The play showcased a wonderful mix of new and experienced Inverness County acting talent and a solid band of musicians including Colin MacDonald (guitar), Kevin Levesconte (piano), Elizabeth Matheson (bass), Malcolm Matheson (mandolin and guitar) and Margie Beaton (fiddle). Musical direction was by Lisa Cameron who also played the character of Katie MacFarlane.
It’s 1950 and the play introduces us to Big Brook, a Cape Breton community that is shutting down to make way for the coming of a new gypsum mine. Big decisions face residents and newcomers alike. Should they like the Dutch newcomer, Johann, find a new farm and stay on or should they be like Malcolm MacLeod and be tempted to try a whole new life down the line based on working in the automotive factories of Windsor, Ontario?
There’s romance, sibling rivalry and argument and touches of Gaelic wisdom dispensed by a cranky but wise old grandmother played to a tee by Joyce MacDonald (Maude).
Just when things are getting interesting an unexpected visitor (Pieter played by Rankin MacEachern) arrives in the community which shakes things up even more.
Displacement explores the difficulties faced by immigrants – something everyone can relate to in some way in our history. We meet WWII veteran Malcolm MacLeod who is struggling to keep his family together and to deal with what would today be known as PTSD. Malcolm’s city-born war bride wife (Margaret played by Tracey MacDonnell) does her best to comfort him and to contribute on the farm in what must be a very new challenge for her. We meet Johann (Rory MacEachern), a Dutch farmer who has survived the war and the loss of family to embark upon a new life in Canada; We meet Harry, a British home child played by talented newcomer Joel MacLellan. Perhaps most interesting are the many strong female roles evident in Displacement.
There’s a lot happening in Displacement, and some might suggest cutting a couple of musical numbers to trim the length of the play a bit and abandoning the headset microphones in favour of projecting the voices.
However, the play has all the elements of a great Cape Breton story that needs to be told and shared. Let’s hope the play sees life on many more stages down the road.
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