Familiar battles take the stage

The Second World War serves as a backdrop for the conflict between a father and daughter in Linda Griffiths’ The Last Dog of War
Jared Story

Familiar battles take the stageWith Remembrance Day approaching, it’s fitting that Theatre Projects Manitoba’s first production of the season is The Last Dog of War, running Nov. 5 to 14 at the Costume Museum of Canada.

Written and performed by Linda Griffiths, the play tells the true story of a trip to the U.K. she took with her father, a Second World War veteran, for the last reunion of his Royal Air Force comrades, the 49th Squadron, Bomber Command. Set against the battle between Allied and Axis powers, there is another conflict in this tale – that between father and daughter. But don’t expect some clichéd coming-together type tale.

“I was determined it wasn’t going to be a sentimental story and yet, of course, there is an emotional level there, but there was no attempt at the beginning (of the trip) for it to be any kind of working out,” Griffiths says. “I went for my own reasons and then things happened by accident, as opposed to this tearful joining together of father and daughter. It’s not a sentimental story but it doesn’t mean there isn’t emotion in it.”

Griffiths, under the direction of Daniel McIvor, has been honing The Last Dog of War for four years now. The Montreal-born, Toronto-based playwright, whose Age of Arousal played at Theatre Projects Manitoba last season, says she developed the play “on its feet,” meaning she’s taken an improvisational approach. In fact, when she first performed it she had no script, rehearsal, no preparation whatsoever beyond a few ideas, a time frame and a few cues. The idea was to keep the emphasis on storytelling, something Griffiths says audiences have related too.

“What I’ve been really interested in is the range of ages that respond to the play,” Griffiths says. “For instance, I did a show for the Performing Arts Lodge in Toronto and that audience was mostly above 65. They relate to the Second World War stuff. I actually talked to a woman who told me she was one of the people in the basement when my father was bombing Berlin! I thought, ‘This is my optimum audience for it.’ But then when I played it for students, they’ve reacted at least as well or better to the show. I think it may be because part of the story is about very young people who went to war, and they are imagining what that may be like.

“How I know that the audiences are responding across age lines is there is a lot of laughter in the show. There are a lot of laughs, even if I don’t necessarily go for them. Relationships between parents and children are funny; the personalities, the classic clashes. That’s part of it, and part of it’s the characters that emerge, myself and my father, a couple of very stubborn people.”

Theatre Projects Manitoba
Until Nov. 14, Costume Museum of Canada