Matthew Daigle | Telegraph-Journal
February 23, 2023
Nearly 200 students from Rothesay Netherwood School gathered to experience a play on withstanding war made by a theatre group that has spent the past year facing war.
The Saint John Theatre Company hosted a screening of the play The Book of Sirens, set in the Second World War, Wednesday afternoon. The play was produced by ProEnglish Theatre, an English-language Ukrainian theatre company based in the nation’s capital of Kyiv.
The play itself was recorded in the theatre’s basement in the face of bombardment in the early days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Director Alex Borovenskiy got to speak to the students following the play via Zoom.
“I never had a day off since the day of the invasion and this is my kind of resistance, I do art,” said Borovenskiy during a Q&A session with the students following the play. “This actually became [a way] to empathize with ourselves because we didn’t understand what we’re doing … this performance allowed me and us to look back and smile and cry and do these things.”
The 40-minute, one-person play is loosely based off of the novel The Book Thief. The play follows a little girl learning to read in a bomb shelter in a small German town during the Second World War.
They managed to record the play while stuck in their own bomb shelter for 42 days. Borovenskiy said during that time several people lived together, along with seven cats.
Che Brainanta, a Grade 11 student from Saint John, said he found the play to be more abstract at first. He said it wasn’t just what was happening in the play, but what it symbolized.
“I feel like it’s more of a story of any child who’s gone to a war zone and who has to experience that and have to endure that kind of situation,” said Brainanta. “One of the biggest takeaways for me was that it kind of illustrates how this could happy to anybody … if I have been anybody else, I could have been in a mass grave yesterday, or 50 years ago. It’s a very humanizing thing.”
Dayna Ellis has been teaching at RNS for 20 years and leads the school’s drama department. Ellis said being able to have the talks and Q&A session following the screening of the play “really brought it home” for the students.
“Without hearing those connections that the director was making and being able to ask him questions, I don’t think they would have felt the full impact of it,” said Ellis. “That’s neat for the kids to know that it doesn’t always have to be riots and protests, that art can also send a message just as clearly.”