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Live Kicks: The Fugitives RIDGE

November 12, 2022 - 7:30pm

Brendan McLeod and the long-running JUNO-nominated folk group The Fugitives perform Ridge, their unforgettable piece of musical theatre that pays tribute to the more than 10,000 Canadian casualties of Vimy Ridge.

Described by The Georgia Straight as “a creative typhoon,” Vancouver-raised Brendan McLeod writes novels, plays, and poetry, and is the founder of the long-running JUNO-nominated folk group The Fugitives.

For most of his life McLeod has also been obsessed with the history and stories of Vimy Ridge, the legendary WW1 battle that resulted in over 10,000 Canadian casualties. Recently, McLeod turned his scholarly zeal into a passionate and thoughtful show called Ridge, which pays haunting tribute to those fallen soldiers while at the same time taking fierce aim at the futility of war.

Vimy Ridge is often called “the battle that made Canada,” and there is much flag-waving mythology wrapped up in that high-minded phrase. McLeod wanted to offer a grittier and more nuanced perspective of those bloody three days and began writing a one-man show about Vimy. During his research he kept being drawn to songs – often protest songs – that had been penned by soldiers in the trenches, young men desperate to live but afraid they’d soon be dead. And Ridge, originally a purely narrative work, transformed substantially as those heart-wrenching, emotionally raw, and sometimes black-humoured lyrics became central to what was becoming a potent piece of musical theatre, now to be performed by all four members of the band.

By setting those haunting words to The Fugitive’s own contemporary musical settings compatible with their bass, guitar and violin format, McLeod and his band forged a powerful way to express the horror and heartbreak of that blood-soaked battle from a century ago. According to the Winnipeg Free Press, “McLeod’s range is wide . . . but there’s an easy precision to his delivery, which combines crack timing with immediate, unforced intimacy.”

Whether it is questioning the nature of grief, our connection to the past, the resilience of the human spirit, the complicated truths of militarism, or how Indigenous Canadians fought bravely at Vimy and elsewhere yet returned to Canada as under-valued citizens, Ridge challenges us to rethink our history. It is vivid and visceral and offers a deeply emotional evening of music and memories that you won’t soon forget.


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