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Fringe Review: Miss Bruce’s War

By Josh Lemoine on June 20, 2016

80 minutes | Canadian, Family, Historical | G

Don’t wait to get your tickets to the next performance of Miss Bruce’s War. Get them now. Really.

I say this not just because there is only one more opportunity to see it, but also because it’s simply 80 minutes well spent. The play, written by Jean Duce Palmer (who was in attendance on opening night), and put on by the Elmwood School Theatre, was sold out well in advance of its first show on Saturday, and those who were able to get a seat were not disappointed.

The show follows a young schoolteacher (Miss Bruce, played with infectious optimism and aplomb by Sophia Swettenham), as she is sent to rural Alberta in the winter of 1942 to supervise a one-room schoolhouse. The show, though several years in the making, is quite timely, as it deals with prejudice and insensitivity towards neighbours new to the country.

The show is carried by Swettenham, who acts both as the main character and narrator. There are several short musical numbers in which she is able to show off her vocal skills which, though not powerful in these numbers, come across sweet and in key, and perfectly appropriate for the mood of the show.

Though the show relies on Swettenham’s strength as the lead, what impressed me was the strength of the supporting cast, especially considering their ages. I doubt any of the schoolchildren have hit double-digits yet, but most had great sense of their characters, and comedic timing beyond their years.

Besides the occasional use of small movable set pieces (a wood stove, a chalkboard), scenes were set using nothing more than six wood boxes and a bench.  Transitions using these pieces are surprisingly smooth, and the actors do the rest of the job transporting you to the next scene.

While the story is incredibly formulaic (my one real complaint), it has something to entertain everyone in the crowd, from children, to young adults, to quite older adults. It’s not groundbreaking theatre, but it’s a well-rounded production, and I believe it features a few future stars.

Miss Bruce’s War, Academic Hall, 133 Séraphin-Marion, –one show only- Saturday, June 25 @ 12:00pm

Tickets are $12.