Shatter tackles fear and prejudice during Halifax Explosion

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REVIEW
Shatter
Runs until Dec. 16
Walterdale Theatre
10322 – 83 Ave.
Tickets: $15 to $20. Call 780-420-1757 or call http://www.tixonthesquare.ca

In the early morning of Dec. 6, 1917, the citizens of Halifax had no idea their town was about to be levelled by a harbour collision involving a ship carrying explosive wartime munitions.

It was the largest man-made disaster prior to Hiroshima. The devastation was unimaginable, killing 2,000 and injuring 9,000 people. Among the terrifying fear of a German invasion, a wrongful witch hunt ensued.

That’s the gritty premise of playwright Trina Davis’ Shatter now running at Walterdale Theatre until Saturday, Dec. 16. Shocking and surprisingly relevant to post 9/11, this Canadian play is an eerie look at how fear and trauma can turn good people into vengeful extremists.

Shatter seeks to tell the untold stories of people desperately searching for loved ones and finding only death. It looks at the physically injured trying to cope in a crumbling society. It bares man’s basest nature through stone-wielding mobs and reveals heartfelt empathy for those wrongfully blamed.

The play opens several hours before the explosion as Jeannie, a commanding matriarch, Anna her romantic 17-year old daughter, and Elsie, Jeannie’s closest friend, a German immigrant, sit at a table sipping tea. The three women project a comfortable, familial warmth bred from long-time friendships.

As Anna walks to school, the explosion occurs. Not only is Halifax destroyed by the terrifying events, but the three women’s relationships are forever fractured.

Through the concise dialogue, director Josh Languedoc creates a natural, illuminating and informative portrait of the event. But in the middle of the chaos and stench of death, is a story of compassion reminding us romance can bloom, dreams come alive and hope is never far away.

St. Albert actress Siân Godsmark plays 17-year-old Anna MacLean, a romantic on the cusp of womanhood. Naive and innocent, she sees the world through rosy coloured hues and fantasizes in her diary of kissing soldiers. Instead she is tasked with finding the missing body of her brother and caring for her blinded mother.

Godsmark takes her character through a series of stages from dreamy, sweet and curious to shell-shocked, defiant and enraged. In her anger, Godsmark shows us a young woman torn between loyalties who unfortunately makes a destructive choice.

Yanite Terefe as Jeannie, is a motherly figure with a determined sense of loyalty to family and friends. But the explosion destroys Jeannie’s sight, and when her son is declared dead, it collapses her spirit. Terefe’s Jeannie is a tragic figure that elicits our sympathy as the spirited woman who in the blink of any eye loses everything meaningful.

Samantha Woolsey as the gentle and compassionate Elsie is unfairly targeted an an enemy agent because of her German ancestry. Elsie is pivotal in revealing how fear visually impairs people. Every time she is steadfast and caring, it magnifies the evil others mask.

And Dylan Brenneis as Brian Davidson is Anna’s love interest, and the prejudiced soldier that sways her into committing a criminal act. Brenneis’s Davidson is terrified of being shipped to a war, yet determined to kill as many “Huns” as possible. He’s the figure you fear, the man who accepts rumour as truth without considering the consequences. Brian is the man we could all become in a moment of panic.

Not only does Shatter teach us about the Halifax Explosion, a period in Canadian history that Alberta knows little about. It also provokes us into considering our role in current political situations.

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About Author

Anna Borowiecki

Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.