Theatre

The Prophet at Tantramar (1988)

Trotsky and Natasha

Set inside a prisoner-of-war camp in Amherst, Nova Scotia, The Prophet at Tantramar is an unforgettable drama about the life and times of Leon Trotsky, one of the seminal figures of the twentieth century.

In March, 1917, when Tsar Nicholas II abdicated the throne of Russia, Trotsky was living in New York. He hurried to book passage for home. On March 27, with his petite wife Natasha, his sons Sergei, 9, and Lyova, 11, and five other revolutionaries, Trotsky sailed aboard the Norwegian-American liner SS Kristianiafjord. Three days later, the ship arrived in Halifax to join a convoy.

But a British secret agent had notified London of Trotsky's impending return. The British authorities were worried that Trotsky would influence the Russian government to make peace, allowing Germany to concentrate its forces against Britain. And so, the day after the Kristianiafjord arrived in Halifax, the British Naval Control Officer in Halifax apprehended the little band of Russians and interned them. Natasha and the boys were held in Halifax, while the men were shipped off to an internment camp in Amherst, formerly a rail-car factory. To read Trotsky in Amherst, Silver Donald Cameron’s 1988 Canadian Geographic account of the episode, click here.

Trotsky confronts the Colonel

The Prophet at Tantramar – Silver Donald’s only stage play -- takes place during Trotsky’s month inside the POW camp, where he organized the prisoners into a studious, self-governing socialist society. It presents Trotsky not only as a towering historical leader, but also as a devoted husband and father, a brilliant writer and a superb organizer. Using flashbacks to Trotsky’s earlier life and flash-forwards to his persecution and death, the play evokes the tragedy both of Trotsky and of the revolutionary ideals to which he dedicated his life.

the German prisoners of war

The Prophet at Tantramar was workshopped at Playwrights Workshop Montreal, and produced by The ShipÕs Company Theatre in Parrsboro, Nova Scotia, in 1988, where it was directed by Michael Fuller. The production starred Richard McKenna as Trotsky, Gay Hauser as Natasha, and Robert Nasmith as the camp commandant, Col. Arthur Morris. Mike Pellerin played Sgt. Olson, and Darrell Burke played the German officer Von Schlocken. The German prisoners of war were played by Scott Owen, Geoff McBride and Tom Scott.

The Prophet at Tantramar was later presented as a one-hour radio drama by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.