The ushers give you a red paper poppy along with your program for this production of “Remembrance Day,” the eleventh day of the eleventh month, when the English—Americans, too—remember their war dead. We call it Veterans Day, emphasizing the identity of the dead, rather than the obligations of the living.
Eighty-year-old war bride Nancy Ballinger has returned to England for a visit, carrying a memorial wreath, and she names two men in her prayer “oh, and even my husband.” We don’t know who the men are, but in the course of this one-hour, one-woman production, we find out. And a lot more besides.
Remembrance Day was written and performed by June Ballinger, Nancy’s daughter, now Passage Theatre’s artistic director. Nancy tells us how much June has pestered her for the secrets of her past, pre-America life, especially the war work she did at Bletchley Park, Mr. Churchill’s treasure-house of secrets. While we may not learn in great detail what she did, we find out much about who she was.
Ballinger, the actor, moves convincingly at all the ages she portrays, and her director keeps her moving. One hour, no intermission, and interest never flags. Her mother’s character wonders how she will be remembered, when so much essential to herself she felt required to keep to herself. This play, her “remembrance day,” is full of compassion, understanding, and abundant love.
Remembrance Day is one of six one-actor plays being performed at Trenton’s Passage Theatre through March 20 in its “Solo Flights Festival.” It will be repeated Sunday, March 20, 3 pm. I’ve heard rave reviews about two of the others: Manchild in the Promised Land and Panther Hollow. Check Passage’s website for the schedule