COLIN MACLEAN | EDMONTON SUN | 14 Aug 2008 | ★★★★★

One-person show had audiences on their feet in acclaim

Jake's Gift. Mark it down. Get your tickets right away.

This one-person show from Vancouver arrived unheralded at the Saskatoon Fringe and in no time, word of mouth and rave reviews had filled the theatre. It remained filled for the entire 10 days.


At the end of the show, audiences inevitably leapt to their feet in a standing ovation.

I suspect the same thing will happen here. You won't read about this remarkable show anywhere else. It's not in the program. It didn't make the lottery for the Edmonton Fringe and only found a venue when another company cancelled at the last minute.

Jake's Gift is a performance put together by a talented young actor/writer named Julia MacKey. MacKey travelled to the 60th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy and assembled her piece based on interviews with Second World War veterans.

The result is a heartfelt hour that packs the kind of emotional wallop you hope to find at the Fringe - but seldom do.

Isabel is a fresh-faced and talkative 10-year-old French girl who lives in Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer, forever known to Canadians as Juno Beach after the sixth of June, 1944 when the Royal Winnipeg Rifles stormed ashore. Isabel meets a cantankerous and plain talking old codger on the beach and the two fall into an animated conversation. The lively youngster and the lonely old man strike a spark.

Out of their conversation comes a story of family, memory, the camaraderie of men going to war, the hopes of youth and the burdens of age.

In short, life and death.

These are huge emotions handled with subtlety and respect by MacKey.


There is a danger here of sentimentality, but Jake's Gift never crosses the line. The feelings generated are real, rising out of dialogue, anecdote and character.

MacKey immediately establishes a rapport with her audience. A tilt of the body, a change of voice, a slight tremor and she becomes Jake - returning to Juno 60 years after the loss of his brother on the beach. The actor's face opens to become Isabel, the 10-year-old who develops one of those close, immediate friendships that only the very young can manage.

"Jake's my best friend," she tells her aunt.

Mackey doesn't so much play her characters as inhabit them.

The fresh optimism of the young girl helps the old man resolve some issues that have clouded his life.

But enough of this. Jake's Gift is a play that should unfold as you see it and not in a review.

When the lights come up, there will be few dry eyes.

Jake's Gift is replacing Blast! in Venue 6.