Last year I was in a play called Mary’s Wedding by Stephen Massicotte. The play is an epic, sweeping love story that plays out in the dreams of Mary, the night before her wedding. It has been years since her first love, a boy named Charlie, went off to fight the Great War and never came home. Now Mary is about to move on but she must still say goodbye one more time…
Moving back and forth from the picturesque fields of Alberta to the war-torn trenches of the Western front, the play is indeed full of poetry, magic and passion but what truly drew me to the role of Charlie was the real life parallels to my own families history.
My Great Grandfather, Joseph Doyle fought for the Empire and just like Charlie, was lost forever in the fields of France. Growing up I always loved to look at the one medal he had received – The U.K.’s Allied Victory Medal. It was only with the onset of this play that my brother and I tried to figure out exactly what happened to him though. Until this point, no one knew! Well, through some basic digging we discovered what regiment he was in and below is the Wikipedia article to a battle he presumabley fought in that lines up with the date on which he died.
- Joseph Doyle died March 31, 1918 in France during the German spring offensive, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Michael
Then here is the closest thing to a grave that my great grandfather has over in France.
- He does not have a grave but his memorial is at the Pozieres Memorial in France. He was from London (Islington to be exact) and Served in The Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort’s Own) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rifle_Brigade_(Prince_Consort%27s_Own)
Pretty heartrending if you ask me, so imagine my surprise when I discovered that the character of Charlie (based on the real war hero, Lieutenant Muriel Flowerdew) died on March 30, 1918 at the Battle of Moreuil Wood. That’s one day before Joseph Doyle and like, ten miles away!
I literally burst into tears when I made that discovery because I was suddenly charged to tell not just the “soldier’s story” but the story of my own flesh and blood. A man nobody remembers, who died as just a pawn in the greatest game of chess the world had ever seen. What a HUGE responsibility I felt as an actor… Nearly a year later I still look back on Mary’s Wedding as probably the most important role I ever played. Not only did I honor Joseph Doyle, but I gave him the voice to tell his story. Through me, he was able to live one more time and make his peace. That sounds like poetry but I really do believe that’s what happened.