From the Canadian Perspective: ‘Ten Lost Years’

Poster for Domino Theatre's production of 'Ten Lost Years'. The title, playwrights, director, and presenting company are noted.

“I’ve seen tears in men’s eyes… It was a very emotional time when a man came in and went up to the counter.”  -Relief worker in Barry Broadfoot’s Ten Lost Years: 1929-1939.

Ten Lost Years is a play based on the 1973 book of the same name by Barry Broadfoot playing at Domino Theatre this spring. Written by Cedric Smith, George Luscombe, and Jack Winter, and directed by Martha Bailey, Ten Lost Years is a despairing yet heartwarming play that showcases many different stories from real Canadians during the Great Depression. To create his book, Broadfoot travelled across Canada interviewing fellow Canadians, and their stories—exactly as told to him—make up the book and play.

The show has actors playing multiple characters, jumping back and forth between them as stories are being told. With the amount of jumping around and information being given to the audience, it’s possible to get confused, but I found it fairly easy to follow along through well-thought-out transitions and unique character choices. Bailey did a splendid job creating all of the stories with a very minimalist set, designed by Tim Fort, and a small number of costume changes (costume design by Krista Berg and Joan Jones). 

I did, however, find it hard to become invested in the play as it hopped between stories fairly fast. I would just begin to get invested in a situation and scene, and then there would be a cut to a totally different one. With that being said, I loved that I learned a great deal about the Great Depression, especially from the Canadian perspective. Specifically, I found the stories about the men who would hop on top of freight trains travelling across Canada looking for work fascinating and something I never knew much about. This was a major highlight for me along with great work from a wonderful cast.

All performers do a beautiful job bringing all of these characters and stories to life. The multitude of accents they use help distinguish between the different stories and are done fantastically. They also sound beautiful when singing the handful of songs in the play. A special shoutout to Serena Ferzli whose angelic voice accompanies her excellent guitar playing. Donald Mitchell is also a highlight, bringing energy and enthusiasm to every story he is in. As well, all music is played live by the cast with guitars and ukuleles—this was something I particularly appreciated. There were a few mishaps at the performance I attended but all in all, I loved seeing the cast involved in the instrumentation and they do a wonderful job. 

The play does touch on some mature themes so I would not recommend it to young children. Having said that, it did teach me a great deal about Canada’s history, and as a person who loves that topic, this was my favourite part of the show.

Ten Lost Years is a beautifully-done and historically-accurate retelling of how the Great Depression affected middle-class working Canadians. With a simple yet accurate set and costume design along with great acting, it is a fun time at the theatre. If you are looking to learn a bit about Canadian history while also seeing an entertaining show, then head on over to Domino Theatre.

‘Ten Lost Years’ is playing at Domino Theatre until May 11th, 2024. Find more information here.