Review: “Lest We Forget” at the Lunchbox Theatre

Vicki Trask

  • Calgary Critic

Lunchbox Theatre has been an amazing source of new and rediscovered material over the years and this is not the first time Remembrance Day (or Veterans Day) has provided inspiration for incredible theatre. I attended the World Premiere run of “Lest We Forget” on Tuesday November 8th 2016 with expectations of hope, beautiful music, and plenty of tears (I’m definitely a crier). 

Created by Joe Slabe and JP Thibodeau, this one hour show follows real stories of war (from WWI to Afghanistan) told from the Canadian perspective; the soldiers who fought, the families left behind, and the refugees seeking shelter within our boarders. Using a combination of video projection and original music, three actors and an incredible musician (Joe Slabe) take the audience on an emotional journey. 

Eric Wigston, Elinor Holt, and Selina Wong play every character from a couple separated by an ocean and a war, to a little London girl on the train to escape the Blitz, to a son playing Call of Duty over Skype while his mother plays the real life version. While much of the show is sullen or contains undertones of sadness, there are also moments of something resembling hope or calm in the midst of chaos. It wasn’t just an hour long parade of sorrow. The important thing is that this show explored the Canadians who were and are affected by war.

Joe sings about being a “Child of War”, one who was born and lived with the reality of war and I think that concept resonated with the whole audience; a powerful statement that held our collective breaths. Every note from every piano, guitar, accordion, horn, and voice came together to create one beautiful story after another. I love listening to Joe’s creations. 

Accompanying this brilliant music and concept were a series of videos and projected images featuring veterans, and survivors, and refugees telling their stories. We also heard from children describing war, and people from the community thanking those who have served our country. It was a burst of patriotic pride amidst the death and the loss. Kris Mish’s videography was well assembled and absolutely heart-warming – though from my seat, I missed some of the visuals but I know sightlines can’t always be helped in a theatre of that size. Lauren Thompson’s choreography perfectly matched the music to the functional scenic design by Julia Wasilewski.

One thing, which another audience member brought up but I’d like to mention, was the representation of women and people of colour in these wartime stories. I loved seeing more than just a 1940s American perspective on the impacts of war. One of my favourite songs was “Call of Duty” which had all the hallmarks of a contemporary scene. We met a child whose life revolved around violent video games and his mother a world away. This wasn’t just a show about soldiers; this was about Canada’s history, and honouring their legacy. 

I was honestly moved to tears by some of the stories – especially towards the end of the hour as the emotional impact snowballed – and I am so grateful to have been in the audience to witness this spectacular performance.

I want to thank JP and Joe for creating such an amazing show and I hope to see the next iteration of it in the coming years. I know there are plans to let the show evolve as more people tell their stories and bring more hope to the world and I can’t wait.

“Lest We Forget” is playing at Lunchbox Theatre until November 12th.