A time for Remembrance: Theatre as a means for survival

A time for Remembrance: Theatre as a means for survival

This month, The Cultch is presenting the Ceasefire Series: an exploration of war to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the armistice of WWI. The series features three unique shows that explore the causes, effects, and traumas of war from different lenses; one taking place during WWI (SmallWaR), one taking place during WWII (Three Winters), and one taking place in contemporary times (The Believers Are But Brothers). We hope you will come and enjoy all three!

As part of our Ceasefire Series we are please to present the world premiere of Amiel Gladstone’s Three Winters. Three Winters is a highly theatrical case for the creation of art as a means to survive, inspired by the experiences of Amiel Gladstone’s grandfathers who was a prisoner in Stalag Luft III POW camp—made famous by 1963 film The Great Escape. One of the ways the men in the POW camp survived was by making theatre.

“If it weren’t for their ability to make theatre, my Grandpa said he would have died in those WWII POW camps. This play is about that reality, told with immediacy and connection.” — Amiel Gladstone

Though not commonly known, theatre was one of several ways that men in the trenches, and men in POW camps kept themselves occupied during war. Early this year, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow (MOCAK) exhibited Lagertheater  an exhibition about theatre in concentration camps and POW camps, about which they say: “The assembled documentation reveals how difficult it was – in spite of the radical methods of extermination used – to extinguish the prisoners’ sense of their inner worth, which they expressed through the creative act.”

Amiel Gladstone’s play, Three Winters, has an all-female cast as a way of re-contextualizing this tale of war. “I became very interested in how much of a statement that was about why we make art and its importance…I got interested in how it was all men acting in those places and decided to reverse it to a cast of all young women. They aren’t used to playing war heroes anymore than my 22 year-old grandfather was in his POW situation,” says Gladstone.

Cross dressing was common in prisoner of war camps as well as in theatre for soldiers at the front. Some men became famous for their female impersonations, as shown in these archival photos images:

The idea of theatre as a means for survival is alive and well today. Theatre has used in many therapeutic ways from Drama Therapy, to helping Veterans who are suffering from PTSD, to theatre in refugee camps.

The cast of Three Winters…performing as men performing theatre in a POW camp! Photo by Emily Cooper


Three Winters runs Nov 7-17 at the Historic Theatre. Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363. See all three Ceasefire Series shows for as low as $65 with The Cultch’s Choose 3 Subscription package.

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