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July 2009 | WINNIPEG FRINGE FESTIVAL


Katie Nicholson | CBC WINNIPEG | ★★★★★


I’ll admit to having misgivings about the subject matter of Jake’s Gift. What, I wondered, could this piece say about WWII that hasn’t been said a thousand times over? I hunkered down ready for a barrage of tired cliches.


I couldn’t have been more wrong.


Set in 2004 on the 60th anniversary of D-Day, the tale follows the unlikely friendship struck between a young French girl (Isabelle) and Jake, a war veteran returning to France for the first time since the end of the war.


Jake is drawn to Isabelle’s precocious knowledge of D-day and her pert curiosity about all things Canadian. They form an even stronger bond upon learning that the grave Isabelle tends to every day belongs to his fallen brother.


Their time together draws to a close – but not before Isabelle gives Jake a token from his brother’s grave. Jake promises to return the favour.


Many months later Isabelle receives Jake’s gift and the story poignantly comes to a close on the beach of Normandy where it all began 60 years previous.


Jake’s Gift is the most theatrically pure show I have ever seen. Its star and playwright Julia Mackey delivers a stunning performance moving effortlessly between Isabelle’s youthful joie de vivre and Jake’s geriatric wryness.


So well fleshed out are her characters, so instantaneous are her transitions that it feels like an ensemble show. Through every one of Jake and Isabelle’s ratatatat interactions, Mackey inhabits each role voice, body and soul.


Jake’s Gift is an original, superbly constructed, tour de force tearjerker. See it: but be prepared for throat-lump inducing moments, tracks of fresh hot tears and racks of laughter.


It thoroughly deserves every standing ovation it gets.



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