Theatre Review: Shatter

Written by Trina Davies and co-directed by Kristi Hansen and Vanessa Sabourin Shatter recreates the 1917 Halifax Explosion from the point of view of four residents. Life in Halifax is initially hopeful because of the economic boom that the war has provided. The play centers on a mother and her daughter Anna and how their life is changed the day all the windows shattered. The close family friend, Elsie, a German, is a vehicle for exploring the anti-German sentiment as the war grew bloodier by the day and as residents of Halifax looked for someone to blame after the great explosion. Last, the play features Bill, a young soldier, variously assigned in Halifax who woos the young Anna and is the most virulent example of anti-German sentiment. His hatred manages to drive a wedge between the family and Elsie, and he plants paranoia in the hearts of the mother and daughter that drives them all apart and into devastation.

Staging an explosion of this magnitude in the small space of the Catalyst theatre is a challenge and the strongest part of this production is its staging of that very moment. The set falls to ruins, and the actors animate the aftermath with a lyrical turbulence that demonstrates the vast impact of the event. Use of projected newspaper headlines and crowd-simulating choreography draws the audience into the turmoil, the desperation, and near to a visceral understanding of what being in the midst of losing 2000 Canadians lives would have been like.

In all of that creative staging and effervescent choreography, the characters aren’t written as fully three-dimensional personalities. Anna especially is a leaf blowing in the wind of either her mother or her suitor, an all-too common portrayal of women in theatre. Bill is ambivalent as he is both a hateful bigot and Anna’s prince charming rescuer, with seemingly no inner turmoil as a result of this. The writing toys with a motif of diaries and letter-writing but it doesn’t develop into a payoff or understanding of why Anna is so attached to her diary especially. The play does show how fear and paranoia can ripple through people in different ways and can outcrop in acts of careless destruction, but it didn’t seem to do this in a way that was new or unexpected. Mildly soporific, there are noticeable lulls in the second half.


2 ½ out of 5 Stars


Shatter plays at the Catalyst theatre until March 19th.



more in Theatre Review     |     posted Mar 13th, 2011 at 11:50pm     

All Content Copyright © SEE Magazine 2008 About Us Contact Us Privacy Policy Terms of Use Contest Disclaimer