Shatter: This view of Halifax explosion is a dramatic disaster.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Shatter By Trina Davies, diected by Barbara Kobolak. a Kanata Theatre production.

The Halifax Explosion on December 6, 1917, was among the greatest maritime disasters in Canadian history.

The facts were that a French vessel, the SS Mont-Blanc, was carrying a cargo of explosives (improperly protected) when it collided with a Norwegian vessel, the SS Imo in the strait on the way to Halifax Harbour. The Mont-Blanc cargo caught fire and the resulting explosion wreaked havoc around it, killing some 2,000 people and destroying whole communities.

Because the horrifying event occurred during World War I, the initial assumption — fueled by inaccurate reporting and rumours — was that the Germany enemy had caused the disaster. In the aftermath, most people of German origin living in Halifax were imprisoned.

The 2005 play Shatter by Trina Davies focuses on how that explosion broke lives and lifelong friendships, encouraged a mob mentality and left people weighted down by despair and hatred. Even the one relationship that looks to a more hopeful future is unrealistic and likely to end in more death and destruction.

The result is that nothing about this script is uplifting. So, despite Barbara Kobolak’s careful direction and the employment of some excellent staging ideas, the Kanata Theatre production drags and depresses. The thought and effort are to be admired, but much of the time, such efforts as awkward choral speaking and hard-to-read projected headlines do not work to full effect.

Some moments are touching. For example, it is hard not to be moved when Kim Strauss as Elsie, the German character, tries to convince her longtime friend that she is not a German spy or speaks of her loneliness for her dead husband. And, as the teenager, Anna, whose mother is blinded in the explosion, Emily Walsh is convincing in expressing a raft of emotions, including her infatuation with her soldier boyfriend.

But, the interest is limited to individual short segments. Davies’ dramatically disastrous script splinters two hours painfully slowly.

Shatter continues at Kanata Theatre to November 18.

Reviewed by Iris Winston.

Director: Barbara Kobolak

Set: Dean Flockton

Lighting: Iain McCracken

Sound: Mike Bosnich

Costumes: Diane Smith

 

Cast;

Anna/1………………………………..Emily Walsh

Brain/2………………………………..Sam Pomerant

Elsie/3…………………………………Kim Strauss

Jennie/4………………………………..Katie Buller

 

Numerous unidentified extras


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