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Daughter's stage flight with 'old bastard' a success

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 6/11/2009 (2758 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

THE mission for actress Linda Griffiths in her new dramatic monologue was to reconnect with her Second World War veteran father and get him to his squadron's last RAF reunion in England without starting a Third World War.

The Last Dog of War, which opened the 20th season of Theatre Projects Manitoba Thursday night, is a compelling, deceptively simple telling of the Griffiths' 2005 overseas journey that was almost as risky and flak-filled as his 1940s bombing sorties to Berlin. The dark-haired Toronto actress, best known for writing and performing the national hit Maggie & Pierre, ascended the stage pulling her wheeled suitcase and off into the wild blue wonder she piloted her audience/passengers on an entertaining 75-minute flight of fancy.

Griffiths appeared perfectly at ease, thanks to director/dramaturge Daniel MacIvor, as if enthusiastically telling a good yarn among friends. Actually, she designated the 80-90 spectators to be her "chosen family." The DIY production values gave The Last Dog of War the feel of a fringe festival production as did the untraditional Exchange District venue, the Costume Museum of Canada on Pacific Avenue. The subject and setting created some interesting images; like Griffiths pretending to be a bomber machine-gunner in front of a large shelf of vintage women's hats.

She introduces dad as "the old bastard" with whom she used to watch old black-and-white war movies with as a child. War was the currency in her Canadian household but her father, a Yorkshire wireless operator who flew 30 missions in Lancaster heavy bombers, was grudgingly uncommunicative about his experiences.

Griffiths thought accompanying the still living 82-year-old Kingston resident to the reunion would be a chance for them to bond around war. She battled to convince him to go and then to outflank an officious organizer intent to ground them. They got over there and come to a new understanding about war and peace.

The playwright narrates in detail the horror of a typical bombing raid to Germany, from the crew urinating on the back wheel of their bomb-laden plane before they climb in for the long flight, to the tense flight home in their often damaged Lanc. Griffiths, the performer, dons a bomber jacket, helmet and googles, using her extended suitcase handle as both the plane's steering wheel and machine-gun. It's all very Billy Bishop Goes to War and theatrically satisfying. The effect is to be reminded and deeply appreciative of the sacrifice of "the old bastard" and his fellow flyboys.

For Griffiths, her mission is personally and professionally accomplished.

kevin.prokosh@freepress.mb.ca

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