Dianne St. Jean

A heart-stirring and moving performance was delivered by Julia Mackey in her theatrical presentation of “Jake’s Gift” on Thursday, Nov. 1 at the Valemount Community Theatre at the high school.

Mackey took time to speak with members of the public after the performance, some whom had visited the Canadian War Cemetery in France.
Mackey took time to speak with members of the public after the performance, some whom had visited the Canadian War Cemetery in France.
Dianne St. Jean PHOTO

If you hadn’t brought tissues, you probably wished you had, for the performance increasingly wrenched the emotions as it moved along.

Julia Mackey did an excellent job in simultaneously portraying three characters: Isabelle, the ten-year old girl from Beny-sur-Mer who, to her, has the “most important job in the world” – tending graves of fallen Canadian war heroes at the Canadian War Cemetery in Normandy, as well as Canadian veteran “Jake” who is visiting his brother’s grave there for the first time, and also portraying Isabelle’s “grand-mama” who was Isabelle’s age when the Germans invaded Normandy. 

Young Isabelle meets Jake on the eve of the commemoration of Canadian soldiers who not only liberated their little village in France, but the free world in general.

Only she can draw out the memories from Jake and help him deal with the emotions that he appears to have stifled for years, especially memories of his fallen brother.

At the end of the performance Mackey presented the Valemount Legion with a print that depicted the characters of the play.
At the end of the performance Mackey presented the Valemount Legion with a print that depicted the characters of the play.
Dianne St. Jean PHOTO

If you think you know a lot of the history, think again. This performance draws out so many elements of the war, as well as the present, one being the fact that French school children are assigned to look after the graves at the cemetery in an act of thanks to the Canadian soldiers who gave their lives for liberty.



But what really comes across in the performance is the emotional toll that war places on the human heart, and the difficulty in coming to terms with not only those dark memories of war, but the good memories that surface, bringing with them a flood of emotions that are difficult to face.

The only regret to the performance was the attendance. This is a story that everyone should experience, especially in this context. It is a performance that you can’t describe in words but must experience firsthand in order to grasp its full significance.

Mackey and partner and director of the play Dirk Van Stralen tour the country giving the performances, and have also presented it in the United States, the UK and France.

If you ever have an opportunity to see this performance, do it.

It’s another way to honour those who sacrifice for our freedom.