On December 6, 1989, a lone gunman roamed Montreal’s École Polytechnique, murdering fourteen women in an anti-feminist attack. Commonly referred to as the Montreal Massacre, it is a dark piece of Canadian history.
With the 32nd anniversary of the shootings approaching, Halifax’s HomeFirst Theatre will present Colleen Murphy’s Governor General’s Award-winning drama, The December Man.
Told through the eyes of one of the male survivors who witnessed the event, it is the story of how he and his working-class family were affected and their attempts to take care of him and help him move past the tragedy.
Our world tends to be one now that everybody blames everybody else all the time, and this play reaches beyond that and encourages us to reach out and be a bit kinder. It does so with humour and compassion and has much to offer in today’s fractured world.
“It examines the long private shadow that public violence creates,” says HomeFirst Theatre’s artistic director Mary Vingoe, who also directs.
“We live in a world where we’re constantly hearing about some horrible murder or shootings, and then it goes away, but we never really explore the pieces that are left and how challenging it is to recover.”
It is here, in the aftermath, well past the sensationalized headlines, where Vingoe says The December Man resides.
“Colleen Murphy looks at it with humour and compassion in the everyday life of this family with moments of light in the darkness and characters who are fully-dimensional,” says Vingoe.
Despite examining the Massacre from the perspective of a male survivor and his family, Vingoe says The December Man does nothing to undermine the fact it was an act of gender-based violence.
“In fact, I think it explores it more thoroughly and deeply because she does choose to take that route,” she says.
Originally scheduled to run just before the pandemic hit, while the timing now may coincide with the anniversary of the Massacre, it may also provide a moment of catharsis during the holiday season as Nova Scotians continue to suffer the repercussions of the worst mass shooting in Canadian history.
“No, it’s not a happy Christmas play, but it’s a play that’s moving and powerful and makes us think about our neighbours, and maybe be a bit more compassionate towards them,” says Vingoe.
“Our world tends to be one now that everybody blames everybody else all the time, and this play reaches beyond that and encourages us to reach out and be a bit kinder,” she continues. “It does so with humour and compassion and has much to offer in today’s fractured world.”
HomeFirst Theatre presents The December Man at The Bus Stop Theatre (2203 Gottingen St, Halifax) from November 25 through December 5. Visit homefirsttheatre.com for tickets and more information.