Don’t Miss Innocence Lost at the National Arts Centre

Lynne Harper’s murder is one that dominated the news for years and to this day, remains one of most famous unsolved cases in Canadian history. The year was 1959 and 12-year-old Lynne Harper was raped and killed and a 14-year-old boy was convicted and sentenced to death based on flimsy circumstantial evidence. That boy was Steven Truscott. It was a monumental case that ultimately sparked the debate that led to the elimination of the death penalty in Canada. In 2007, Truscott’s conviction was deemed a miscarriage of justice and he received compensation from the Ontario government.

The latest National Arts Centre English Theatre production, Innocence Lost: A Play About Steven Truscott by Canadian playwright Beverley Cooper, revisits the story from the points of view of several characters, but mainly from the perspective of Truscott’s classmate Sarah. The case may have had huge implications on the policy front, but it also greatly impacted a small town in southern Ontario, ripping it apart, stealing the innocence of hundreds of children, destroying their sense of the world as a safe place. Cooper explores the complexity of all of this in a deeply moving way.

Cooper also captures the evolution of society in Ontario from the 1950s, when blind faith in institutions led to a judicial tragedy, to a time when those same institutions were challenged and ultimately put on trial. Many questions remain unanswered at the end of the play, but that’s the nature of the case.

PHOTO: Fiona Reid, Trevor Barrette, Brendan McMurtry-Howlett, Julie Tamiko Manning. Photo by Luce Tremblay-Gaudette.

Every aspect of the production is brilliant. The performers are, without exception, stellar. Jenny Young’s Sarah is phenomenal but the whole cast impresses. Most of the actors took on different roles during the play including the amazing Fiona Reid, who played Harper’s mother and then Isabel LeBourdais, the Chatelaine journalist who wrote a book on the case and first called into question the Truscott conviction. It is always an unbelievable treat to see Fiona Reid grace the stage. She is pure magic.

The entire production is outstanding. Everything from the music to the background black-and-white video adds to the brooding ambience. But it really is the acting that transports the audience back through time to bear witness to the events of those tumultuous years.

Don’t miss Innocence Lost: A Play About Steven Truscott. It is only at the NAC for a few more days, until Saturday, March 16th.

Show times are Tuesday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with a matinee on Saturday the 16th at 2 p.m.  After the performance on Wednesday the 13th, stay for a Talk Back, a discussion with the artists.  For more information, visit  Tickets run $12-$80.