Miss Bruce's War is not your normal Fringe entertainment. It's a new
piece by 93-year-old Jean Duce Palmer and based on her own experience
of teaching in a one-room school in Alberta's Cypress Hills region
during the Second World War. It's also a student production that comes
to the Fringe from Ottawa's Elmwood School.
This is a memory play rather than a traditionally constructed drama.
It's only real conflict rests in what happens when a young and
inexperienced teacher is thrust into an alien culture and faces the
classroom challenge of dealing with German-Canadian youngsters in a
time of war. Yet it remains an affecting piece of theatre because of
the quiet integrity of the script, and the evocative power of the
playwright's memories, coupled with the responsive work of a group of
talented youngsters under the direction of Angela Boychuk.
Sophia Swettenham brings out both the innate sweetness and
vulnerability of Miss Bruce in her performance, and takes her
character through a true emotional arc. And she interconnects
beautifully with the play's other characters who are engagingly
played by Niamh Hurley, Aviva Gerring, Lauren Jane Hudson, Madighan
Ryan, Sonja Swettenham, Ciara Hurley, Adrian Manicom, Erica
Giustiniani, Maya Mainland-Gratton, Adam Waddington and Lotte Kallio.
The stage of Academic Hall is essentially bare save for a few props,
which the youngsters will effortlessly rearrange to ensure fluid scene
changes. Yet the production still evokes a sense of time and place —
with coyotes howling in a blizzard, a pump in the backyard, a mouse
frozen in a bucket, and the music of Wilf Carter and Mart Kenney and
His Western Gentlemen on the radio.
(Miss Bruce's War has one more performance on June 25 at 12 noon in