Michael Armstrong is one tough cookie.
Just 21, he’s spent six months fighting in Afghanistan and is now home recovering from injuries, both physical and mental.
While a patient at a rehabilitation centre, into his life comes Halley Armstrong, just 12 years old and determined to get her Pathfinder badge by reading to a patient there.
She has her own injuries both physical — she’s in a wheelchair — and mental, as she copes with an overprotective mom and the reality she’s not in her teens yet and her life has been turned upside down.
As portrayed by Zac Scott and Julie Leung, both debuting with Western Canada Theatre’s production of Armstrong’s War, they are an odd pair, obviously bound by their surname but brought together through the commonality of their lives, of learning how to accept and move forward.
As the play progresses, Leung said, it becomes less about getting the badge and more about connecting with the soldier. Just entering her teens, Halley is coping with hormones, with a mother who calls her six times a day, with her goals, her dreams and with that extra challenge of the bright green wheelchair.
For Scott, his character is someone battling between being that stand-up, integrity-filled guy everyone can count on to be there and the reality that he went to the war-torn country expecting to make some changes and the reality is it changed him.
They start to bond through Halley’s determination to read to Michael. Once she starts to read to him The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, a story of a young private during the American Civil War who flees battle but longs for a wound to be his badge of courage, Michael is inspired to write of his own experiences.
Halley gets him to read it to her and the play moves into its true mission, looking at the value of life.
That’s not to say this is a play full of tension and moments that make you feel sad.
“If you were to describe it to someone, they wouldn’t think it’s funny,” Leung said, “but it is.”
The play is the last of WCT’s season and opened Thursday, April 12. It continues to April 23 at Pavilion Theatre, 1025 Lorne St.
The theatre is set up in a unique way, with the audience on three sides of the solitary set.
Tickets are available at the Kamloops Live box office at the theatre, online at kamloopslive.ca or by phone at 250-374-5483.