April 7, 2009


It’s generally accepted that the majority of New Zealanders today oppose war and advocate for more peaceful resolutions to conflict. Yet on Anzac Day those conscientious objectors who made difficult stands for this position historically still get limited acknowledgement.

This Anzac Day afternoon will be the first public performance of Michael Galvin’s play War Hero at Downstage Theatre, Wellington, April 25, 3pm, a play inspired by We Will Not Cease by Archibald Baxter and commissioned as part of the Bruce Mason Playwriting award.

The playreading, directed by Murray Lynch, will be accompanied by projection of celebrated paintings by Bob Kerr, which also tell Baxter’s story, as featured in Field Punishment No.1 by David Grant, a history of conscientious objection in New Zealand. The actors include Jed Brophy, Simon Ferry and Aaron Alexander.

Archibald Baxter was one of 14 conscientious objectors who were forcibly transported to the front line in France during the First World War where they were subjected to a variety of disciplinary measures, including the barbaric ‘No. 1 field punishment’.

This playreading is being presented by Playmarket with Downstage, the Bruce Mason Estate, the Downstage Theatre Society, and the FAME Trust. It’s also an opportunity to hear the work of a leading emerging playwright interpreting a classic of New Zealand literature with a stellar professional cast. The play was commissioned from Galvin as part of winning the Bruce Mason Playwriting Award, New Zealand’s most significant theatre award.

Michael Galvin is best known for his play Ocean Star which premiered to acclaim with Auckland Theatre Company in 2006. Well known as an actor for stage and screen (Shortland Street) his plays Station to Station and New Gold Dream are both scheduled for professional productions  soon.

Baxter, the father of James K Baxter, wrote We Shall Not Cease in London at the beginning of the Second World War. When it was republished by Caxton Press in 1968 he wrote the following in the preface:
"A greater barbarism than any the human race has known in the past has risen among the nations. In the First World War multitudes of conscript soldiers were buried alive in the mud of France. Villages were also annihilated but the greatest number of casualties were among the conscript troops. In the Second World War the wholesale slaughter of civilians—by high explosives, by firebombing, and finally by atomic weapons—became a matter of course. Reports from the present Vietnam War indicate that 80 percent of the casualties are occurring among civilians. War has at last become wholly indiscriminate… We make war chiefly on civilians and respect for human life seems to have become a thing of the past… all wars are equally atrocious and no war can be called just."

Playmarket is New Zealand’s playwrights’ agency and development organization, funded by Creative New Zealand to develop, represent and promote New Zealand playwrights of excellence. The Bruce Mason Playwriting Award is awarded annually to a leading emerging playwright who is commissioned as part of the award, sponsored by the FAME Trust and Downstage Theatre Society, to write a new work for the stage. The award has been in existence since 1983 and presents a roll call of some of New Zealand’s leading writers. For more information see www.playmarket.org.nz/opportunities/bruce_mason_award    

War Hero, Michael Galvin,
Downstage Theatre,
Saturday April 25, 3pm,
Entry by koha


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