This Is War - Tarragon Theatre

This Is War – Thought-Provoking Theatre at its Finest

Writer: Hannah Moscovitch
Richard Rose
Starring: Ari Cohen, Lisa Berry, Sergio Di Zio & Ian Lake
Set & Costume Designer: Camellia Koo
Lighting Designer: Rebecca Picherack
Composer & Sound Designer: Thomas Ryder Payne
Stage Manager: Nicola Benidickson

War. Those simple three letters put a concept together that can be described in many ways. War is a not a simple thing. We, as part of the human race, are use to it. We’ve been involved in some kind of a war since the beginning of our existence. However, with time, perspectives and attitudes change and with that brings a certain sense of withdrawal from the reality of things. This Is War throws out the BS and puts war in its raw, true form.

Here’s the gist of this piece: It’s epic and you have to see it or you’re seriously going to regret it. Tickets can be found here:

This Is War - Tarragon Theatre

An Overview

This Is War is a play written by Tarragon Theatre’s playwright-in-residence Hannah Moscovitch, brought to life on stage by Tarragon’s Artistic Director Richard Rose. The play takes the audience back to 2008, where Canadian Forces are holding Panjwaii – a district in the Kandahar Province of Afghanistan – with very little support from NATO-ISAF. Master Corporal Tanya Young (Lisa Berry), Medic Sergeant Chris Anders (Sergio Di Zio) and Private Jonny Henderson (Ian Lake), along with Captain Stephen Hughes (Ari Cohen), are interviewed by an unseen journalist about a critical event, one that shakes the definition and perception of war that we have become accustom to.

Raw, Breathtaking Experience

Moscovitch brings to the table very powerful dialogue, wrapped around a very sophisticated story. War, as mentioned before, is not a simple concept. Its all about perception and what Moscovitch does is bring forward a very different perspective. Rather than put forth a story about war that is common, she creates a raw, unedited story from a soldier’s point of view. We as the audience can never understand the true pain felt in war, unless we’ve experienced war or heard the raw, untold story.

Richard Rose takes this raw literary piece and magnifies it. He creates this environment where the audience is immersed into the theatrical experience. Camellia Koo’s set and costume design is brilliant. The entire theatre is used to bring audiences into the moment, giving you the feeling that you are there, present, and listening to these soldiers fight against their own emotions and pain to tell you their story. You will be lost for words.

This Is War - Tarragon Theatre

The Roles Are Lived, Not Acted

Just looking at the cast list, you immediately get the sense that you are going to be presented with pretty great acting. Forget acting. The four wonderful cast members live their characters. They embrace the pain, the conflict, the emotions, the simple sense of responsibility as soldiers of war. Ari Cohen really dives into the role of Captain Stephen Hughes, exercising his characters authority and leadership but leaving room for delicate characteristics, building the leader we expect but creating a character we can relate to. By the same token, Ian Lake truly highlights the young, restless attitude of Private Jonny Henderson. Here is a kid, in his low twenties, put in the middle of a unstable war zone and asked to defend his post and provide a service to his country. Lake balances between the young person’s tough guy attitude and the struggle against all the pain he is facing. It’s pretty remarkable to see him create this character that really connects with you on a personal level.

Then of course there is Lisa Berry’s Master Corporal Tanya Young. In this day and age, its not difficult to picture a woman in the military. What is difficult though is the experience a woman has when at war. A woman’s emotions, as we know, differ from men in general. What happens when you magnify that in a war zone? Berry provides a remarkable performance, truly highlighting her female character, ensuring she is on the same playing field as the boys of war. The one character that stands out is Sergio Di Zio’s Medic Sergeant Chris Anders. We are simply never exposed to the lives of military medics. Soldier’s see a lot of blood, no doubt, but medics have to deal with it while trying to save their colleagues life. Di Zio brings forth a remarkably complex character that hides his internal pain while trying to be the professional that he is. Its simply beautiful.

This Is War - Tarragon Theatre

Theatre At Its Best

There are very few productions that take a very sensitive topic and successfully present them to audiences. Frankly, trying to adapt war into a theatrical play in its raw form is not just hard, its pretty gutsy. This show is not about heroism, act of valor or any of those things. It’s putting war into perspective and reminding Canadians, that yes, in our modern day and age we fought a war, we suffered similar consequences and losses as we did in the World War’s and were affected as a society just as we were before. With the driving power of media and the simple fact that we have begun to care less of what it takes to be in combat, focusing on the politics of stuff, we have forgotten the true essence of what war is. This play highlights everything we have forgotten and brings us back to reality.

Bottom Line

You simply have to see this production. Its the very polite slap-in-the-face that people need when it comes to understanding war and its various effects on people. Rose has taken Moscovitch’s beautiful script, given it to a group of sophisticated actors, and has crafted together a theatre experience you are not going to forget anytime soon. Trust me, if you don’t see it, you’re going to regret it.

Watch out for our interview with cast members Lisa Berry and Sergio Di Zio!

This Is War, celebrating its World Premiere, plays at the Tarragon Theatre until February 3rd, 2012. For tickets, please visit

Tickets Range from $27-53 (including discounts for students, seniors and groups). $13 Rush Tickets available at the door on Fridays (starting at 6pm) and Sundays (starting at 1pm). Saturday, January 26th is a Pay-What-You-Can Matinee at 2:30pm.