Some of the world’s most moving stories are those based on true events; real stories re-imagined in ways that celebrate our humanity, acknowledge our losses, and educate through our failings. This past Thursday night, I was fortunate enough to experience such a story at the debut performance of “The Child”. A musical production staged by my friend’s church, “The Child” was an original story inspired by the World War I Christmas truce and created entirely by members of the church. Because of the wonderfully relevant subject matter of the musical, I was really looking forward to attending. I’m sure the 1914 Christmas truce is on a lot of people’s minds this holiday season, and it has certainly been on mine.
My ticket and program for the evening’s show
Although there was an appalling snowstorm on Thursday, I managed to make it to the church, and it was lovely to see that the weather hadn’t discouraged too many other attendees. I settled into my seat with excitement, but I was uncertain of what to expect- I must say that I expected a great performance, but one without a lot of sophistication. Given that it was staged by volunteers and not by some fancy theatre company, it seemed reasonable to do so!
But as soon as the actors of the first scene appeared, my surprise surfaced and only grew as the show went on. It was incredibly well done; and everything from the costumes to the music was amazing. The women in the cast were outfitted in a fantastic range of Mary Poppins-esque outfits; wearing button-up boots, elaborate hats, and elegant skirt-and-blouse combinations. The men were just as well-dressed, wearing classic outfits of tweed and pinstripes with scarves and newsboy caps.
The music was also brilliant- and again, composed by a member of the church. Amazing! Every song was so catchy and I found myself wanting to sing along, even though I’m really not prone to such inclinations! The songs ranged from a rousing number sung by the women of the cast as they took up new roles once the men had left for Europe, to a deeply moving cry to heaven by a soldier upon the first blood of war. I love music, and this music was so memorable that it left a mark on my heart.
As for the cast, they were wonderful. They were adept with the musical aspect and appeared as seasoned professionals, even though I know that one in particular (in a prominent role) had never done anything like this before. Each character was distinct, idiosyncratic, and lovable in their own way; and these characters got me invested in the plot.
The fantastic music, atmospheric costumes, and talented cast and organizers all contributed to one crucial part of “The Child”: the beautiful story. I can’t describe it with any word other than “beautiful”. There were moments that were emotional, humorous, and even frightening- but the overall story was truly heart-warming, and exactly the kind of thing one needs to experience at Christmastime.
As the title would suggest, this show centred around a child; or rather, two different children. One was Jesus- after all, this was a Christmas story. The other was the child of a young Irish Catholic woman and a Scottish Presbyterian, who married in secret. The Irish girl’s father was a proud Irishman; staunchly anti-Scot, he opposed the marriage, and much of the plot focused on her and her new husband’s struggle with her unreasonable and immovable father. The Christian faith was integral to the story; all the main characters belonged to one denomination or another, and on the Western Front, this had an effect on the soldiers just in time for Christmas and the famous Christmas truce.
German soldiers initiated the truce by processing down the aisles to the stage- a nice touch which really brought the audience into the moment. They were singing “Silent Night” in German and carried a tiny evergreen tree with them, and it was incredibly moving to see the Canadians’ initial suspicion and hesitation melt away with the warmth of friendship. Another poignant moment came when the Germans and Canadians posed for a group photo- immediately mirrored by an authentic 1914 photo of the same event projected on either side of the stage. That moment made it very real for me. It was beautiful.
Detail of “The Child”‘s program
The joy of Christmas- and the peace and reconciliation brought by this ancient gift- brought these soldiers together; and back in Halifax, the birth of another child brought more reconciliation. Upon the birth of his daughter’s firstborn, the stubborn old Irishman gave up his stubbornness, and made peace with her and her husband.
It really was a lovely story, and a wonderful evening. I loved everything about it! The kind of peaceful contentment I got from watching “The Child” isn’t found often; but it stems from Christmas’s true foundation and the unimaginable love surrounding it. I’m so glad my friend invited me to this show- I think that it and it alone has already made this Christmas one to remember.