Pugwash follows the story of the first Pugwash Conference in July of 1957. On its 60th anniversary, it’s a piece of Nova Scotian history that doesn't get much attention, but is here in the capable hands of playwright Vern Thiessen.
The play is a fictional narrative following two kids, 13-year-old Conni McPhee (Gina Thornhill) and 11-year-old Jamie Gillis (Henricus Gielis), in the days before and during the first conference. Academics and scientists from around the globe gather to talk about the dangers of nuclear testing, the responsibility of the scientist, and to hash out post-war national grievances and fear of nuclear disaster.
Ogawa (Ian Leung) and Alex (Theo Pitsiavas) are visiting “thinkers” and each develops a friendship with the local kids, Ogawa with the sensitive Conni, and Alex with the rambunctious Jamie. The two scientists, a Japanese and a Russian, also play out the animosities between their respective countries, driven by rich performances from both Leung and Pistiavas. Then there is Brown, a ruthless journalist, who feels sometimes out a different play altogether, but is portrayed by Karen Bassett with a strange and delightful panache.
Pugwash is a conventional play in most respects, but its sights are not set on being impressive. Instead, Thiessen tells the small story that hovers within a much larger one. It is a story of differences dealt with on an individual level, but pointing towards greater ambitions of hope, change and understanding. It's an intelligent and thoughtful play that is relevant in many ways to today's political climate, while shedding light on an intriguing local story.
Written by Vern Thiessen
Directed by Natasha MacLellan
Ship’s Company Theatre
18 Main St.
Until July 30th