A play about war-era nurses is returning to the Museum of Surrey.
Canadian Nurses in Wartime will run at approximately 11:45 a.m. in the museum’s theatre—right after Remembrance Day services end at the Cloverdale Cenotaph Nov. 11.
Written by Renee Sarojini Saklikar and researched by Ishbel Newstead, the poem-play will feature both women playing different roles.
“A poem-play is a seated reading that incorporates historical research into the narrative,” said Saklikar. “We take documentary work and we merge it with imagination.” She added she uses poetic license for dialogue, but not history.
Saklikar plays the role of an investigator while Newstead plays the roles of three different nurses.
Comprised of three vignette scenes, the poem-play reenact moments from the nurses’ wartime lives.
They chose Margaret Mainwaring, Joan Doree, and Kay Christie as the nurses they wanted to profile.
Saklikar and Newstead performed the poem-play last year at the Museum of Surrey on Nov. 11.
Saklikar, a creative writing instructor at SFU and VCC, was Surrey’s poet-laureate from 2015 to 2018. She said she was commissioned by the Museum of Surrey to write the piece as a companion to an exhibit they were running for Remembrance Day last year.
“The poem-play reveals how nurses of the time felt about the things they saw and it shows how they did a lot for the war effort,” said Newstead. ‘They were rarely recognized for their efforts, they agonized over their work, and they had strict rules to follow.”
A retired teacher, Newstead said nurses in the war were RNs and with that came an officer’s rank. She also discovered during her research process that only white women were allowed to be nurses. “They had a strict profile to fit and lots of people weren’t allowed.”
Saklikar hopes people observing Remembrance Day will head into the museum’s theater after events wrap up at the cenotaph in Veterans’ Square. She is also adding an interactive element to this year’s show where people who have stories about nurses, whether they be personal or familial, can share them.
“I’m hoping people will come out and share their stories.”
Canadian Nurses in Wartime runs approximately 20 minutes. The theatre inside the Museum of Surrey seats about 50 people and visitors will be seated on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Remembrance Day service starts at 10:25 a.m. The Museum of Surrey will open its foyer at 9:30 a.m. and will have free coffee and hot chocolate.