There’s a photo you’ve probably seen, taken on July 1, 1924, the day of the dedication of the National War Memorial on Duckworth Street. Every non-grassy spot is occupied, standing room only. People are crowded into windows and standing on rooftops to witness the event.
The photo helped inspire local author and playwright Ed Riche to pen Dedication, opening at the LSPU Hall this week, on November 9th.
“I wondered if there were doubters of the cause in Newfoundland of the time, and some cursory inquiry and research told me, no, everyone was behind it, were almost hungry for it. So, I invented some people who thought otherwise.”
The play, directed by Charlie Tomlinson, is a Resource Centre for the Arts Theatre Company production in partnership with The Arts and Culture Centres.
Riche wrote the play between 2013 and 2015, when he witnessed the ramp up for the commemoration of World War I. “It started looking a little too much like a celebration for me,” says Riche. “There was too much ‘glory in sacrifice’ and not enough consideration that the conflict was a horrific waste of human life, all for the vanities of a dying ruling class in Europe and that the price of victory was WWII.”
In the play, Field Marshall Douglas Haig (David Ley) comes to St. John’s to dedicate the National War Memorial. There, he meets Charles Edgecombe (Edmund Stapleton), a groom from the Governor’s stables, and local journalist and suffragist, Geraldine Drover (Allison Kelly).
Among historians, Haig is a contentious historical figure, alternatingly described as the man who won the war and a man who callously threw away the lives of soldiers, earning him the nickname “Butcher Haig.” In the play, his presence sparks a debate on the causes of the war, its consequences, horror and hope.
In Dedication, Riche hopes that Haig speaks for himself. “I did my research and then did my best to let him depict himself,” says Riche. “He’s not set-up in this piece, he makes his case well because he believes it to be true. In his universe, he is righteous. He may be divisive, but he is not divided against himself.”
“David did an exemplary Haig in an earlier workshop version, I couldn’t find a flaw in his interpretation, so I was overjoyed to know he was able to do the production,” says Riche.
Partnering with Riche is long-time collaborator, director Charlie Tomlinson. “It is easy for me to collaborate with Charlie as we have worked together many times before,” says Riche. “We also had a routine of walking our dogs together on week day mornings, which afforded us a chance to talk about the project steadily as I was writing it.”
Dedication will be at the LSPU Hall November 9-12 & 14-19, then tour the Provincial Arts and Culture Centres from November 22 – December 1. Visit artsandculturecentre.com for more details.