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Monday March 29, 2010 in Books
In the fall of 1918, a world ravaged by four years of war was suddenly hit by a mysterious and deadly plague—the “Spanish” flu. The illness struck not only the young and the elderly, but also people in the prime of their lives; advancing rapidly toward mortality in its victims. This phenomenon in effect brought the terror, the panic, the horror and the sense of helplessness of the Great War home with the returning soldiers—more people died of this epidemic than had been killed in battle throughout the armed conflict.
As fear of the dreaded flu begins to fill the town of Unity with paranoia, drastic measures are taken. The town is quarantined in an attempt to keep the illness out. Trains are forbidden to stop, no one can enter, and the borders are sealed. Mail from overseas, feared to be carrying the deadly virus, is gathered then burned. But when the disease descends upon the town despite their precautions, the citizens begin to turn on each other as they attempt to find a scapegoat for the crisis.
Very little has been written about this world-wide calamity which, more than the war itself, destroyed forever the genteel and naive presumptions of European colonial society at the beginning of the twentieth century; Kevin Kerr offers audiences not only an epic chronicle of this forgotten chapter of Canadian history, but a chilling preview of the beginnings of our own new century.
The play is a gothic romance, filled with dark comedy and the desperate embrace of life at the edge of death.
Cast of 6 women and 3 men.
ISBN 13: 9780889224612 | ISBN 10: 889224617
6 W x 9 H inches | 128 pages
$17.95 CAN / $17.95 US
Backlist | Drama | Bisac: DRA013000
QUOTES OF NOTE
"Kerr’s splendid new creation [ Unity (1918) ] is a work of powerful and moving familiarity, a kind of secular liturgy that celebrates love, sex, death and the sorrowful mysteries of war and plague. It’s also painfully funny."
—Globe & Mail
"Unity (1918) is written with an assuredness that easily mixes profundity with hearty laughs … Kerr shows a gift for creating genuinely ordinary people who can expand on great thoughts even as they trip over their own flaws."
"In Kerr’s beautifully written and often very funny play … the story is told of ordinary people united and transformed in facing the fear of the unknown."
"The play is a hard go, but worth it for the stellar writing and mesmerizing horror of being exposed to this under-told chapter in our history."
—Saskatoon Star Phoenix
an “affecting period piece”
Winner of the 2002 Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama
Winner of the 2001 Jessie Richardson Award for Large Theatre: Significant Artistic Achievement Nominations, Original Script (Arts Club Theatre)
Winner of the 2001 Jessie Richardson Award for Sydney Risk Award (Arts Club Theatre)
About the ContributorsKevin Kerr
Kevin Kerr is playwright and founding member of Vancouver’s Electric Company Theatre. In 2002 he received the Governor General’s Literary Award for his play Unity (1918), which has been produced across Canada as well as in the United States and Australia. Other works include Studies in Motion (Electric Company Theatre) and Skydive (Realwheels). Kevin was Lee Playwright in Residence at the University of Alberta in Edmonton from 2007 to 2010. He returned to Electric Company Theatre in 2011 as Artistic Director.
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts; the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF); and the Province of British Columbia through the British Columbia Arts Council for our publishing activities.