Cranbrook Community Theatre’s production of “The Fighting Days,” opening tonight at the Studio Stage Door, pulls us back 110 years to vital period of Canadian history.
The play by Wendy Lill, directed by Melodie Hull, follows Francis Beynon, a real life character who took part in and got caught up in that history, and was largely forgotten by it.
Francis Beynon follows her sister Lillian (who would go on to become a noted author and editor) into the Canadian suffragette movement in Winnipeg, fronted by the dynamic Nellie McClung. Young Beynon is hired on as “women’s editor” at the Winnipeg Rural Review, headed by George McNair, who offers guidance and mentorship.
“Prove you’re worthy of respect,” Francis writes in her column, “and set yourself free.” And “freedom is like getting a voice when for so long you’ve been silent.”
Francis’s voice and ideals flourish, and in a powerful theatre device, her column gives voice to a host of prairie women through their letters to her.
The goal of the movement, led by McClung, is the franchise — Votes For Women. Freedom and Democracy are the same.
Then history intervenes — the Great War breaks out, pulling everything into its violent maelstrom, changing everything, even across the sea in Canada. Suddenly, the idea of freedom changes. Out of the ideals of the movement, prejudices, chauvinism and hatreds emerge. Francis Beynon and Nellie McClung and the movement are set for an epic clash over the ideals of pacifism, patriotism and democracy.
And the answer to the eternal question is still pending: What’s the best way to clean an owl?
The actors create an epic portrait of a tumultuous chapter in Canada’s story, on a stage designed by Kirsten Taylor. Costume design by Jean-Ann Debreceni.
Jelena Jensen plays the role of Francis Beynon; Candice Fisk is Nellie McClung; Alison Platt is Lillian Beynon; Nathaniel Leigh is McNair. The “Prairie Women” are played by Rhonda Sheridan, Anita Wishart, Sandy Ashby, Candace Wilson, Kathleen Simon and Amanda Casey.
“The Fighting Days” runs February 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 16, 19, 20, 21 and 22nd at The Studio Stage Door 11 – 11th Ave South, Cranbrook. All show times are 7:30 p.m., except the matinee on Sunday February 16th.