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Backyard Theatre: Ridge
August 17, 2023 @ 7:00 pm - August 26, 2023 @ 8:30 pm
Written by Brendan McLeod
Directed by Julia Course
Music by Brendan McLeod & Adrian Glynn
Backyard Theatre returns to McCrae House this summer with a solo version of RIDGE.
Often called “the battle that made Canada,” Vimy Ridge resulted in over 10,000 Canadian casualties.
In RIDGE, Brendan McLeod examines misconceptions and varying perspectives around the battle of Vimy Ridge, while drawing parallels to other formative events in our nation’s past. Featuring innovative musical interpretations of First World War soldier songs (often referred to as ‘Trench Songs’), RIDGE probes difficult yet necessary questions about how and why we grieve. Trench songs were written by frontline soldiers during the First World War. Essentially protest songs, they were often parodies of well-known tunes. To accompany the storytelling and thought-provoking narrative, McLeod also performs a selection of these songs on multiple instruments. The result is a poignant and stripped-back collection of work that emphasizes the emotional content of the lyrics and continues the long tradition of folk music reshaping songs over time — the same way soldiers reshaped these songs in the trenches.
A vivid, kinetic ride through history, as well as an intimate, personal examination of our connection to the past, RIDGE is a visceral work that passionately argues against the exploitation of young lives.
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About the Artists
McLeod is the author of a novel, a poetry collection, and six theatre shows. His band, The Fugitives, has been nominated for a JUNO, as well as six Canadian Folk Music Awards. He is a two-time literary finalist for the KM Hunter Awards.
Course is a veteran theatre actor with over 15 years of professional theatre acting experience, primarily at the Shaw Festival, as well as a history of creating and producing independent theatre productions with the group Theatre Animal. Her next directorial project is next year’s OVER THE RIDGE, which combines the text from RIDGE with contemporary dance.
About the Show
Though not exhaustive, the main sources for this work are: Vimy, Pierre Berton; Victory at Vimy, Ted Barris; The Vimy Trap, Ian McKay and Jamie Swift; Vimy Ridge: A Canadian Reassessment, edited by Michael Bechtold, Geoffrey Hayes, Andrew Iarocci; Into the Blizzard, Michael Winter; Trench Warfare, Sue Bradford Edwards; Vimy: The Battle and The Legend, Tim Cook; Liberalism, Surveillance, and Resistance: Indigenous Communities in Western Canada, 1877-1927, Keith Douglas Smith.
All songs are First World War-era songs, predominantly written by soldiers. In most cases, these were parodies, which used the melodies of well-known songs at the time, the lyrics rewritten to reflect the soldiers’ circumstances. McLeod has rewritten the melodies and arrangements, both to more readily access the emotions of the lyrics, but also to continue folk music’s long tradition of reshaping songs over time, the same way soldiers reshaped these songs in the trenches.
The readings are verbatim soldier accounts from the First World War, as well as historical accounts taken from the texts listed above.
“Poignant and sobering”
— The Globe and Mail (Top 10 Arts Pick, 2020)
“Serves to give the sacrifices of those who served and died a human dimension beyond mythology.”
— Vancouver Sun
“Riveting…The way history was meant to be told.”
— Entertainment Vancouver