I dedicate this play to every shadow lost to tragedy. Every voice hurt, silenced, or blinded by this tragedy. Every person in our community and the world right now who is hurt, silenced or blinded by our recent tragedies. May you find your hope. May you look forward towards the future. And may you find peace in putting these shadows to rest.
— Josh Languedoc’s “Director’s Notes” to Shatter
With all the coverage of its centenary the last few days, a Canadian would have to be living under a rock to not have some awareness of the Halifax Explosion. For those few who might have missed Canadian History class (like the young lady next to us last night at the Walterdale who was unaware of German involvement in the First World War) here’s a little encyclopedia entry about the inconceivable event that shattered Halifax on the morning of December 6th 1917.
The good people of the Walterdale took good advantage of a commemorative opportunity by having opening night for Trina Davies’ Shattered on the 100th anniversary of the explosion that is the catastrophic spark for the action of the play. At least two expat/former Haligonians were in the audience and in tears last night at the show, personally remembering the landscape described in the play. That shattered cityscape was made vivid with words for the rest of us on the dark, mournful, minimalist set designed by Pierre Valois. Shattered is a powerful, relevant play with solid performances from the Walterdale volunteers and effective direction from Josh Languedoc in his directorial debut.
Although there were a few first night glitches with the system projecting newspaper headlines and the German text of Elsie’s letter, the projector was a very effective way to quickly get background information to the audience. Although 1917 Halifax may seem at first blush a vast distance from 2017 anywhere, Shattered disturbs us with a reminder that even in one of the most Canadian of Canadian cities, Just under our veneer of “I’m sorry!” courtesy lies the ethnic scapegoating feeding the horrors of Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, the Holocaust, and, yes, the twitter feed of the Trump Administration. As Languedoc writes in his “Director’s Notes”:
The tragedy presented in Shatter is as relevant today as it was 100 years ago. Who do we turn to in times of tragedy? Who are our real friends? Who is to blame? Who can we really trust?
Shatter is an intense, powerful, timely play. In the hands of amazing, dedicated Walterdale crowd it is wonderful commemoration and tribute to the “Shadows” of all tragedy everywhere.
Shatter plays at the Walterdale Playhouse until December 16 (2017).