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.
Before issuing media passes this year, the Fringe organization required the media to sign a document that was unacceptable to me and many of my colleagues. As I could not sign, my reviews are limited to companies that invited me to attend and write about their shows. Iris Winston
Miss Bruce’s War
By Jean Duce Palmer
Director: Angela Boychuk
A fictionalized account about playwright Jean Duce Palmer’s experiences as a young teacher in a one-room school in rural Alberta during the Second World War, Miss Bruce’s War brings moments in history to life with a fine cast of students headed by Sophia Swettenham in the title role.
As well as having an excellent singing voice, Swettenham brings warmth to a demanding part as she delivers patriotic British songs to a community that was first settled by German speakers. She is well supported by the rest of the 12-member cast, particularly Madighan Ryan as Irene, the youngster in whose home Miss Bruce boards and whose bedroom she occupies.
There is also excellent cooperation among the ensemble in arranging and re-arranging the simple and well-conceived set pieces.
A first-class high school production, Miss Bruce’s War is an unusual but very worthwhile presentation for fringe theatre.
Next performance: June 25, 12 noon, Academic Hall