In May of 2016, it was impossible to turn on a TV without seeing images and video of the greatest natural disaster to ever hit Alberta. A wildfire that quickly grew out of control resulted in tens of thousands of people being evacuated from their homes in Fort McMurray, and caused over $3.5 billion in damages, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada. And now, just over eight months after the fire, Matthew MacKenzie is taking a look into the lives of those affected by the fire with his new play, Bust.
Directed by Bradley Moss, the play follows the lives of two sisters coping with the aftermath of the fire, taking place a few months after the tragedy. Brought together by the loss of their sons’ peewee provincial championship hockey game, the sisters and their families attempt to navigate their way back to some sense of normalcy.
“We’re trying to find a way forward, but struggling very much so with the emotional trauma of the fire itself, and then also the trauma from this championship hockey game that we travelled all the way back for,” says Lora Brovold, who plays the part of Laura, one of the two sisters.
Writer Matthew MacKenzie describes the play as “an Albertan story for Albertans, by Albertans.” For him, that meant including a touch of dark humour to the play, something he believes pays tribute to the resilient Albertan spirit.
“It seems that culturally, (Albertans) are still kind of figuring out what we are, but we have a very dark sense of humour,” says MacKenzie. “Humour is a way in. Every one knows that it was a bad thing that happened… so you don’t need to hit that over the head.”
Christopher Schulz, who plays the part of Laura’s husband, Barry, feels that performing the production for the city of Edmonton makes it even more meaningful.
“(Edmonton) obviously has a huge connection to Fort McMurray and took a lot of people who came into the city from Fort McMurray,” he says. “This is a wonderful place to be putting this story up and showing people, because I’m sure there will be a lot of people who will relate to this tragedy.”
MacKenzie hopes the play will remind people that the aftermath of the fire is still being dealt with by those who were affected.
“There’s still a lot of people who are struggling,” he says. “It’s important for us to all remember that and to not forget that we need to be there for that city … I hope that (the play) will kind of keep what’s going on there alive in people’s minds.”
Bust provides a glimpse into what many families affected by the Fort McMurray fire have dealt with and continue to deal with on a daily basis. Over the course of 90 minutes, the two families deal with loss, anger, and guilt as they navigate their way through drug addiction and crime, while still providing the audience with plenty of laughs.
Bust plays at The Roxy on Gateway from Feb. 9 to 26. Showtimes and tickets can be found at theatrenetwork.