Edith Bell (Zoe Harmandian) embraces her mother Lydia Rich (Suzanne Harmandian) upon returning home from Europe with her fiance after the war. (Grace Kennedy photo)

Delta actors bring WWI to life at Ladner’s Kirkland House

The re-enactment was in honour of the 100th anniversary of armistice and its effect on Deltans

For one weekend, Ladner’s Kirkland House stepped back in time to a period in history where young men where heading off to a war intended to be over by Christmas.

On Friday, Sept. 28 and Saturday, Sept. 29, Kirkland House played host to a re-enactment of life in Delta during the First World War. Over the two days, visitors stepped out of time and into the rooms of the historic house, peering in as people from the community’s past lived out their lives.

The idea for the performance came from Peg Keenleyside, a theatre aficionado and Delta resident. She had done the same kind of performance for the turn of the century while living in Lynden, Wash., and used a similar format last week to remember the 100th anniversary of armistice.

“The further it gets away from us, the harder it is to remember,” Keenleyside said about WWI. “But of course, coming from theatre, what I know is stories.”

“Once you’ve heard that story, then you really have something to hang your hat on, as it were.”

RELATED: Volunteers sought for re-enactment of life in Delta during First World War

The historical re-enactment followed the lives of 10 Delta families through the Great War, starting with the declaration of war in August 1914 and ending with the armistice in November 1918. As the audience moved through different rooms of the house — each group starting in a different room and following the lives of different Deltans — the years also changed. The performance opened on the front lawn, then audiences saw each year in a different room, until the actors converged on the front lawn for the armistice.

The performance captured the death of Ladner soldier Sidney Rich, the declaration of his sister Edith to travel to Europe to marry her wounded fiance, the first published poems of Elspeth Honeyman, the dawn of the suffragette movement and the efforts undertaken by Delta’s women to take care of the men at the front.

“When you go see a play that’s a work of invention, it can be brilliant, but it’s somebody’s creation,” said actor Cliff Caprani. “This is an actual historical thing.”

Caprani played Mr. Bailey, a newspaperman and the performance’s only fictional character, but he is well-versed in Delta’s history. He created the documentary Countdown to Sanctuary Wood about Sidney Rich, which premiered in June 2017 after two and a half years of work.

“We worked very hard to get actual facts about people and not to invent too much,” he said about the research that went into the Kirkland House re-enactment. “We played a bit with timelines obviously, but the actual things that happened … that’s all true.

“And that’s what was really fantastic, to try and recapture some of that.”

RELATED: Documentary tells story of Delta man killed in First World War

Over the course of the rehearsals, which took place largely in the Harris Barn beside Kirkland House, each re-enactor had to research their historical character in order to bring them more fully to life.

“That was a really different feeling, that you were really learning and feeling like you know the character really well,” North Delta resident Cathy Deck said. Her son, 14-year-old Ryland Mallari, played soldier Edward Bell, who was engaged to Edith Rich but wounded overseas.

“It was interesting, playing a really old character,” Mallari explained. “I was born in the 2000s, so I’m not used to early 1900s stuff. I learned a lot about the war.”

Deck, who accompanied Mallari to his rehearsals, saw her son’s interest in the history he was learning. But she also saw the challenges in the actual performance.

Keenleyside “had a vision, definitely. But honestly coming in as a person off the street, I was thinking ‘I have no idea how this is ever going to work,’” Deck said. “The thought of people moving through room to room and the years were changing, it was so abstract.

“But I think it really came together in the end,” she continued. “And the fact that we could use the house and be walking through the rooms without being roped off or anything, it really made you feel like you were a fly on the wall.”



grace.kennedy@northdeltareporter.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

Art Swenson (Liam Tait) and Edward Bell (Ryland Mallari) returning home after the war. (Grace Kennedy photo)

Christina Wihitworth (Sandra Patterson) and Captain Issac Whitworth (Lorne Patterson) celebrate armistice. (Grace Kennedy photo)

Elspeth Honeyman (Taylore Deane) reads some of her poetry to Maybel Swenson (Mackenzie Galbraith) and Mrs. Parmiter (Gwendolyn Crowe) in the Kirkland House kitchen. (Grace Kennedy photo)

(Left to right) Bottom row: Ray Chistopherson Sr., Cliff Caprani, Peg Keenleyside, Vera Mayor, Nicky Stowell. Second row: Taylor Deane, Gwendolyn Crowe. Third row: Kathryn Stewart, Arla Tanner, Isabelle Harris. Fourth row: Barbara Baydala, Suzanne Harmandian, Zoe Harmandian, Eric Keenleyside. Fifth row: Jayce Edge, Sandra Patterson, Lorne Patterson. Sixth row: Mackenzie Galbraith, Susan Spencer, Katie Sheridan, Nick Keenleyside. Top row: Ryland Mallori, Liam Tait. (Grace Kennedy photo)

Just Posted

Surrey’s new top cop is White Rock resident Brian Edwards

A transition plan will see Edwards start in his new job on Jan. 6

Former councillor helping organize ‘Speak Up Surrey’ rally against budget

Surrey council is set to vote on the controversial budget’s final adoption Monday night

Four Surrey girls teams will battle for Tsumura Basketball Invitational title

Now that boys teams have vacated the venue, girls get going today at Langley Events Centre

Hardie lone Surrey MP to speak to whether city should have policing referendum

Surrey’s four other federal politicians appear to be dodging the question

‘Absolutely devastating’: Laptops, gift cards stolen from Surrey Christmas Bureau

Executive director says it’s a ‘huge blow’ and the charity was ‘already struggling for teen gifts’

‘A loud sonic boom’: Gabriola Island residents recount fatal plane crash

Area where the plane went down is primarily a residential neighbourhood, RCMP say

B.C. cities top the list for most generous in Canada on GoFundMe

Chilliwack took the number-two spot while Kamloops was at the top of the list

Penticton RCMP warn of new ‘porting’ scam that puts internet banking, online accounts at risk

Two-factor verification has been the go-to way to keep online accounts secure

Thunberg ‘a bit surprised’ to be Time ‘Person of the Year’

‘I could never have imagined anything like that happening,’ she said in a phone interview

B.C. patients wait 41% longer than national average to see a walk-in doctor: Medimap

The longest wait time was found in Sidney, B.C., where patients waited an average of 180 minutes

10,000 affordable rentals a year needed to tackle Metro Vancouver housing crisis: report

The report focused on building government-funded housing, rather than relying on the private sector

Toronto Raptors, Don Cherry top the list of Canadians’ Google searches in 2019

‘Champions’ was the theme of the last year, Google said

Tavares scores twice as Maple Leafs earn 4-1 win over Canucks

Vancouver sees two-game win streak snapped

UPDATED: No survivors in Gabriola Island plane crash: RCMP

Coroner confirms multiple fatalities after small plane goes down Tuesday night near Nanaimo

Most Read