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August 20, 2007
Four and a half stars
Letters from Battle River is a historical journey through Western Canada told through the eyes and voice of Mary Percy Jackson, a doctor who fled England in the early 1900’s to live in the wild, rugged world of homestead-era Alberta.
This is the Fringe equivalent of documentary filmmaking, and the result is a play that is engaging and enthralling despite its low-key tone and relaxed pace.
Heather D. Swain plays Dr. Jackson, and she takes you by the hand and escorts you through turn-of-the-century Alberta with minimal stage imagery or sound effects. Yet she does more with her gestures and voice than most shows accomplish with an ensemble cast and a pit orchestra. “Letters” is a love letter to this part of the world, and it connects you to the cultural and geographic uniqueness of Alberta that those of us who live here can easily take for granted.
— Eamon McGrath
August 23, 2007
Four and a half out of Hicks on Six stars
What a delightful trip into recent history this show is, through the eyes of a remarkable Alberta woman.
Well-known Edmonton actress Heather Swain becomes Dr. Mary Percy Jackson, an adventurous English woman who in 1929 answered an ad seeking women doctors to practice in Alberta.(See the next posting for Heather’s personal experiences with the good doctor.)
Swain’s script is based on a series of letters the articulate Dr. Mary wrote to friends about her adventures in the first three years she was here – being sent way, way up in the Peace Country to be the only doctor for hundreds of miles.
She lived in the most primitive of conditions, by herself with her Great Dane for company, taking care of the rush of immigrants that grew the area from 300 to 1,500 people in three years, of delivering babies, enjoying the northern lights, surviving -40C in winter and +40C in summer, yet enjoying her life to the utmost in what most of us would consider a most hostile environment.
At the same time, she touches on issues that are with us today … her deep objection to Indian residential schools, and a disease outbreak caused by man-made pollution in the area’s main creek.
Letters is probably the closest one could come to experiencing, touching, tasting how life would have been, just 80 years ago in this area. Four and a half out of Hicks on Six stars.