Just in time for Remembrance Day, a Holocaust-themed play called …and stockings for the ladies is playing at the Canadian War Museum.
According to the playwright and co-artistic director Attila Clemann, the show is “a very uplifting story,” rather than a typically sorrowful piece.
“It’s about finding a renewed sense of dignity, trying to rebuild lives after devastation. It’s funny and it’s alive and a super theatrical piece,” he says.
The 80-minute follows two RCAF airmen- Ted Aplin, the hero of the story, and his assistant Daniel Friedman- along with more than 20 other supporting characters. All are portrayed by actor Brendan McMurtry-Howlett, through the use of voice changes and several puppets.
McMurtry-Howlett says he worked on character exercises with the director and also tried channeling the energies and personalities of people he encountered on the street to give each of his characters a unique voice.
Clemann, who is Aplin’s step-grandson, says the men have a unique story. When working at an RCAF station after the war, they helped orphans of the nearby liberated Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, against the RCAF’s orders.
Aplin was almost court martialed because of his dedication to helping the younger people left stranded at the camp, and that is a large part of the story, says Clemann.
Clemann was in high school when he came across letters written by Aplin in 1945. He describes them as “very moving because they are a first-hand account of some of the first interactions with the inmates after they were freed.”
The play has been featured in several cities across Eastern and Central Canada. When it played in Toronto, a representative of the Canadian War Museum went to see it and felt it would coincide well with the museum’s current exhibit, Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race.
Clemann says that while the public might expect it would be too confusing to follow more than 25 characters through one man, “the performer is just remarkable. In a very short time, you know exactly who he is portraying, and the puppets that Brendan performs with are super evocative, and they tend to really capture the audience.”
Jean-Philippe Deneault, media relations and communications officer for the museum says that “everyone who has seen it has been very enthusiastic about the play. There is a bit of amazement over the virtuoso performance given by the actor portraying so many characters at the same time, and I think that’s great.”
McMurtry-Howlett says that many audience members have contacted him and the show’s creators to tell them of personal connections to the play’s story and characters.
“There was a woman who came to see the show in Toronto who was actually the daughter of one of the puppets in the show,” says McMurtry-Howlett. The puppet, Hanka, is featured in an important dance scene based on true events.
Clemann says that the play is appropriate for those of a high school age and up, because of its fast pace and sometimes coarse language, and for the knowledge needed about the war to provide a background context.
The show runs until Sunday, November 2. Evening shows are scheduled for 7:00 p.m. for Friday October 31st through Sunday. Two matinee performances will also play at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday October 30, and 2:00 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets cost $10 for students and $15 for adults, with combination deals available.