Robert Moloney

“Is society defined by war? Are we being led like sheep to the slaughter?”

War as a tool for control, and our manipulation to accept it, are two vast themes at the heart of Sean Devine’s new work, Except in the Unlikely Event of War, a Pi Theatre/Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Theatre original production currently running at Yaletown’s Roundhouse Performance Centre.

At a time when the Harper government is widely accused of muzzling scientists, our political figures face little consequence for breaking public trust. As global politics continue to grow in complexity, we need cultural tools that explore such ideas.

A celebrated local playwright, Devine has examined such themes in previous works. His 2011 play, Re:Union, imagines the motivations behind a true story: Norman Morrison self-immolating with his infant daughter in his arms, outside Robert McNamara’s office, in protest of the Vietnam War. It’s a work that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. It’s both gripping and beautiful.

Except in the Unlikely Event of War is more cerebral. The play takes place in three eras: 1965, 2013 (present day), and 2015, but just one location. These parallel stories nicely suggest two things: that nothing much changes in power and politics, and the compounded effect of government manipulation over time.

Josette Jorge, Robert Moloney, Sean Devine
[Josette Jorge, Robert Moloney, Sean Devine]

The 1965 storyline takes inspiration from Leonard Lewin’s 1967 bestseller, The Report from Iron Mountain – a satire posing as a think-tank report concluding that war, rather than peace, is actually best for humanity. In Devine’s work, the think tank is set in an underground bunker in the Canadian Arctic, where academics discuss the merits of war with differing fervor.

This same location also hosts the 2015 plot that explores the Harper government’s future “Arctic Agenda”. Robert Moloney plays couplet-rhyming radio host, Tommy Bane, who grows suspicious of the government’s spin doctoring when a Chinese submarine appears under the ice. Devine acts as the government’s PR honcho and strategist with a smooth, menacing performance.

Devine also plays, well, Devine: a version of himself in present day, as a playwright/actor launching a controversial (and eventually censored) play, also titled Except in the Unlikely Event of War.

Challenging and ambitious, Except in the Unlikely Event sharply engages in political ideas and is an exercise in the possibilities of our time. We need more of this kind of work in Vancouver.

Except in the Unlikely Event of War continues at the Roundhouse Performance Centre in Yaletown through November 30. Photos by Tim Matheson.

About Our Contributor Zoe Grams

Zoe Grams

Scottish-born Zoe Grams is Principal at ZG Communications and has spent much of her life in theatres and bookstores. Her work has appeared in publications on both sides of the Atlantic, including The Tyee, Back of the Book, GUM and Skinny Mag. Zoe's lifelong passions include the arts and exploring new cities.

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