Actor Robert King gives the impression he's more than just a little keen to be bringing "Bolsheviki" to Stratford's Alternative Theatre Works next month.
The one-man show that asks probing questions about war -- and about Canadians at war -- recently wound up a highly acclaimed run at Montreal's Infinitheatre and director Guy Spung will be installing the show here at Factory 163.
The play is about "what we remember and how we remember," King said in an interview at his Stratford home.
"This puts out a story. And the questions you answer yourself," said the versatile, Montrealraised actor who has had 18 seasons to date at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.
The play is the creation of Quebec playwright David Fennario, who is known for his leftist leanings. It's based on an actual conversation Fennario had with a First World War veteran in Toronto several years ago.
Fennario has done readings of the play himself and had hoped to take it to theatres personally, acting out the role of the veteran storyteller himself. When a debilitating illness prevented him from doing so, he called on King -- a fellow Montrealer -- to take on the role of war vet Harry (Rosie) Rollins.
The playwright and actor lacks no credentials when it comes to familial intimacy with war. Fennario's father was a Second World War vet, as was King's father.
The playwright's father was wounded twice and suffered post-traumatic stress, although it wasn't recognized as such at the time.
King said his own father "never talked about what he experienced in the war."
In the play, which is presented as a monologue by King's character Rosie Rollins, the veteran tells it like it was -- without the sentimentality or political spin that inevitably becomes attached to remembrance.
Fennario has built the play around the conversation Rollins has with Jerry Nines, a freelance novice reporter for The Gazette in 1978 at a restaurant in Montreal.
"Basically this play is one man's journey through the First World War. Joining up as a youth and then growing up real fast. Coming back to Canada in the midst of a world-wide influenza epidemic, inflation, unemployment," said King.
And the returning solders had just watched their comrades die in the mud in some place called Flanders, he adds.
"And what for? They were promised the moon when they left. And when they got home there was nothing."
King is obviously taken with the directness and frankness of the character he puts on stage.
"Hearing it from a veteran who was actually there . . . I think people, no matter what their political stance, can decide what's right or wrong."
The "Bolsheviki" title ties in a few elements relevant to Rosie's war experience and to the time of the interview.
The elderly veteran that Fennario had spoken with had been wounded during the war and was convalescing when news of the Russian Revolution spread.
The news was rapidly passed from bed to bed in the hospital.
There's also a tie in with the Soviet Union's attempt to control Afghanistan in later years that resonates to a degree with Canada's current military involvement in Afghanistan.
"Why did we back who we backed to fight the Russians? They took over the country and they gave rise to the Taliban," says King.
It raises the question whether Canada is currently backing corrupt politicians.
"When a country does something -- and by extension we're doing something because we voted for the people in power -- what are we getting up to and why?"
"Who is telling us what to remember," is one of the questions that comes out in the play.
The Stratford performance dates are Feb. 8-12 with student matinees Feb. 8, 9 and 10 at 1 p.m. which are also open to the general public.
Director Sprung will be in attendance opening night Feb. 9 at 8 p.m. for an audience talk back.
Regular shows continue at 8 p.m. and there's also a 2 p.m. show Feb. 12.
Tickets are $20 and $10 for students and can be obtained at Anything Grows, Fanfare Books and through ticket-e-boo.com.
The Foundation for Education Perth Huron is sponsoring the show, allowing for the matinee performances for high school students in Huron and Perth counties.
The director will be in attendance for the matinees and will be speaking with the students after each show.