HARDLINE PRODUCTIONS, Presentation House/Studio 16, March 29th - April 16th
My Two Cents
By Kelly Moncton
Redpatch is impressive in its balance of big ideas and intimate moments. Walking in, I felt I had already seen and heard enough many stories about the world wars, but Raes Calvert and Sean Harris Oliver proved me wrong in their beautifully written show. Redpatch focuses on the experience of an aboriginal soldier in World War I, and features a strong cast of indigenous performers.
The show opens with a very bold movement piece in masks and the initial scenes were small parts of the soldier’s life. I had trouble connecting with the story at the start, but Reneltta Arluk engaged me right away with her three characters. As a raven, a grandmother, and a Scottish sergeant, her characters were engaging and distinct without feeling like caricatures. At first, the soldiers played by Emilie Leclerc, Chelsea Rose Tucker and Joel Montgrand felt like they might just be colourful background soldiers. As the show developed, it was clear that each part was written and performed with an arc that was both relatable and compelling.
I need to take a moment to also say how impressive the technical elements were. Portraying European trenches and canoes in the Pacific is not easy in a smaller space like the Presentation House, but the lighting, sound, and stone pieces all worked together beautifully. I was also intrigued by the masks I mentioned earlier. They walked a fine line of being both gas masks and more traditional First Nations carved masks.
My favourite part of the play was a plot twist where the flashbacks to the soldier’s childhood were suddenly revealed to be far more relevant to his war experience than they seemed. I had thought the scenes with best friend Jonathan, played by Deneh’Cho Thompson, were some pleasant backstory to contrast with the atrocities of the bloody war. Calvert really made the experience of becoming a veteran soldier come alive with pain and internal conflict.
Redpatch weaves together so many parts of being Aboriginal and being a soldier, and balances them nicely. There was enough exploration of a myth around harpooning an orca to feel you had a grasp of it, but also enough details of war life to feel immersed in that world too.
This is a show that has a strong message, but does it by connecting the audience with characters living very different lives from us, rather than resorting to preaching or giving a tidy answer. Redpatch is beautifully put together, and you should experience it for yourself!