I’LL TELL YOU THIS FOR NOTHING My mother the war hero

Assemby, George Square, Edinburgh, Scotland

07/08/2019 - 25/08/2019

Amdram, 171 Guyton Street, Whanganui

23/02/2019 - 23/02/2019

Globe Theatre, 104 London St, Dunedin

27/03/2019 - 30/03/2019

BATS Theatre, The Heyday Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

18/09/2018 - 22/09/2018

Dunedin Fringe 2019

Edinburgh Fringe 2019

Production Details

Phyllis JasonSmith was one of only two NZ women awarded with France’s highest decoration, the Légion d’Honneur, for extreme bravery in WWII.  

After enrolling as a nurse in the British Army, Phyllis was sent to the front lines, finding the love of her life there. She was one of numerous nurses who risked their lives in the war – why was Phyllis honoured?

War, courage, romance and danger – potent ingredients for fine drama – and Phyllis was a great raconteur.

Phyllis’s daughter Kate, an award-winning director and actor, has crafted this dramatic and often humorous tale of her mother’s life into a fascinating 70-minute solo performance.


BATS Theatre, The Heyday Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington
18–22 September 2018
BOOK online bats.co.nz or call (04) 802 4175


La Fiesta Festival – Whanganui
Amdram, 171 Guyton Street, Whanganui, 4500 
23rd February 2019
Tickets: sa2.seatadvisor.com

Globe Theatre, Dunedin
27th – 30th March 2019
$25.00 – $30.00
*Fees may apply

See Kate’s Events Page for further venues and dates: http://katejasonsmith.com/news.php 

Edinburgh Fringe 2019

Assembly George Square
7 – 25 August

Arts on Tour NZ 2021

Thursday 2 September 7:30pm Rotorua 
St Barnabas Church Hall, School Road, Ngongotaha
$30 Book: 07 347 6275

Friday 3 September 7:30pm Gisborne
Gisborne Unity Theatre
$35 Adult; $30 Gold Card; $25 Student
Book: Eventfinda
AOTNZ InCahoots with Gisborne Unity Theatre

Saturday 4 September 7:30pm Opotiki 
Opotiki Senior Citizens Hall
$20.00 www.Trybooking or Opotiki Library

Sunday 5 September 4:00pm Whakatane
Gateway Theatre
Adults $25; Students $5 Book: The Good Life

Wednesday 8 September 7:00pm Coromandel
Hauraki House Theatre
$25 Book: Coromandel Information Centre

Friday 10 September 7:30pm Te Awamutu
The Woolshed Theatre
$25 (plus fees) Eventfinda and Te Awamutu i-Site
In association with Backstage Pass 

Saturday 11 September 7:30pm New Plymouth
4th Wall Theatre
$30 Adults; $25 Seniors; $15 Students
Book: www.4thwalltheatre.co.nz 

Sunday 12 September 4:00pm Upper Hutt
Whirinaki Whare Taonga
$20 www.whirinakiarts.org.nz 

Tuesday 14 September 7:30pm Takaka 
Playhouse Theatre Takaka
$25 Book: Pohutukawa Gallery, 44 Commercial Street

Wednesday 15 September 8:00pm Mapua 
The Playhouse Theatre 
$25 Eventfinda

Thursday 16 September 7:30pm Hokitika 
Old Lodge Theatre, 11 Revell Street 
$25 Book: Hokitika’s Regent Theatre

Saturday 18 September 7:00pm Hawea
Lake Hawea Community Centre
$25 Adults; $10 Children
Book: Hawea Store & Kitchen; OCD Cafe at Wanaka Medical Centre; Door Sales

Sunday 19 September 8:00pm Queenstown 
Queenstown Memorial Centre 
$25 Eventbrite.co.nz

Tuesday 21 September 7:30pm Alexandra 
Central Stories 
$25 Adults; $20 Gold Card; $10 Children 
Book: Central Stories and Cash Sales (if available)

Wednesday 22 September 7:30pm Roxburgh
Roxburgh Town Hall 
$20 Book: iSite and Door Sales 

Thursday 23 September 7:30pm Cromwell 
Coronation Hall, Bannockburn 
$30 Adults; $25 Super Gold Card; $5 Children www.artscentral.co.nz

Friday 24 September 7:30pm Twizel 
Twizel Events Theatre 
Adults $20; Students $10 promotions@twizel.info or 03 435 0066
Includes complimentary nibbles, Cash bar available 

Saturday 25 September 7:30pm Fairlie 
Albury Hall, Albury 
$20 Book: Heartlands Fairlie 

Tuesday 28 September 7:30pm Oamaru 
Oamaru Opera House
$15 – $25 (plus fee) oamaruoperahouse.co.nz 

Wednesday 29 September 7:30pm Ashburton 
Ashburton Trust Event Centre 
$20 Box Office or www.ateventcentre.co.nz 

Thursday 30 September 7:30pm Christchurch 
Great Hall, Arts Centre
$25 https://www.artscentre.org.nz/whats-on/my-mother-the-war-hero/ 

Friday 1 October 6:30pm Kaikoura 
The Mayfair Arts and Culture Centre 
$25 Themayfair.org.nz 

Saturday 2 October 7:30pm Picton 
Picton Little Theatre 
$25 Eventfinda; Summit Real Estate for Cash Sales 

Arts On Tour NZ (AOTNZ) organises tours of outstanding New Zealand performers to rural and smaller centres in New Zealand. The trust receives funding from Creative New Zealand as well as support from Central Lakes Trust, Community Trust of Southland, Interislander, Otago Community Trust, Rata Foundation and the Southern Trust. AOTNZ liaises with local arts councils, repertory theatres and community groups to bring the best of musical and theatrical talent to country districts. The AOTNZ programme is environmentally sustainable – artists travel to their audiences rather than the reverse.

Designer:  Lisa Maule
Dramaturge:  Deb Filler
Producer:  Shirley Domb
Stage ManagerV:  Neal Barber
Lighting Design & Production Management: Haami Hawkins
Soundscape:  David Downes
Costume consultant:  Jocelyn O’Kane
Tailoring:  Anne de Geus
Graphic Design:  Tabitha Arthur
Accent Coach:  Hilary Norris
Printing by FullStop 

Theatre , Solo ,

1hr 10mins

Kate JasonSmith's show pays tribute to her mother

Review by David Pollock 08th Aug 2019

Subtitled “My Mother the War Hero”, I’ll Tell You This for Nothing is a sweetly-crafted memory play in which actor Kate JasonSmith pays tribute to her own mother Phyllis’s life, in particular her service as a nurse during the Second World War.

Given that we learn her mother lived until she was in her 90s, it feels as though JasonSmith has shown us only a fragmentary window upon a life well-lived, and there is the sense that the character she’s created here – in collaboration with dramaturg Deb Filler and director Jan Bolwell – isn’t quite given the space to grow from her breadth of experience. [more


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A lesson for us all for today

Review by Kate Timms-Dean 29th Mar 2019

In recent weeks the shadow of racial hatred has spread across our little paradise of Aotearoa New Zealand. Following the events of Friday 15 March, comments on newspaper articles and the heated debates of the keyboard warriors on Facebook and Twitter have sliced open the underbelly of racism and religious intolerance in our communities. Against this backdrop, the story of Phyllis JasonSmith’s experiences as a nurse in the last days of World War II is all the more poignant, all the more valid.

The incredible skill and passion of Kate JasonSmith is on display as she ably skips her way across several characters, perfectly rendered through their characterisation, stance, mannerisms and voice. This is physically hard work, but JasonSmith handles it all with finesse, driven by the pride and passion she obviously feels in portraying her own mother. Not only is Kate the star of the show, she is also the play’s author, drawing on memories of childhood and conversations with her mother, Phyllis, on her death-bed.

Phyllis’ experiences on D-Day and following the Western Front through France, Belgium and Germany are fascinating, filled with charming anecdotes and memories that stand out in stark relief. Laughter, wonder, fear and tears all mix together to create and share the camaraderie, love and horror that Phyllis experienced.

Probably the most poignant aspect of Phyllis’ story is that of her relationship with her husband. As an Irish Protestant, Phyllis knows her mother will never accept her Irish Catholic beau, but there is no denying the love and friendship that springs up between them amidst the violent explosions of wartime Europe. But war has taught Phyllis a powerful lesson in the shadows of the frontline and the rubble of Dachau. She has seen first-hand the impact of religious hatred and bigotry, and she will never allow these feelings to take root within her.

This is a lesson for us all for today, brought to us as a gift from the past, and I wholeheartedly thank you for it. 


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Well thought out and presented

Review by Elise Goodge 24th Feb 2019

A one-person show can be a daunting prospect, both for performer and audience. Fortunately, this one-woman show stands as an exemplar of how to present the genre. Written and performed by Kate JasonSmith, the pedigree of both performer and collaborators shines through in this well-crafted and paced show.

This very personal piece by Kate recounts her Mother Phyllis JasonSmith’s World War II experiences and dips into her family history, illuminating to the sold-out theatre that sometimes heroes reside closer to home than we perhaps consider.

The show opens with Kate telling a thirteenth century family story of a strong-willed Irish ancestor running away to join her unapproved lover. We then meet Kate’s Grandmother who seems an equally strong-willed Irish woman, setting the scene for her own Mother’s resilience and seeming unflappability. Kate transitions effortlessly between characters, as she moves chronologically through her Mother’s stories of her war-time experiences, often funny, sometimes harrowing.

Perhaps the most charming aspect of the show is Kate’s characterisations of many people she has met or knows intimately. We are all, secretly, pretty good imitators of our parents’ voices and nuances and to see Kate play her own Mother, Phyllis, makes you warm to her as a character from the outset. The audible, oooos, aaaahs, chuckles and gasps from the audience are testament to Kate’s ability to hold our attention. The pacing and transitions in the show are well handled and blocked, no doubt owing to the input of Dramaturg Deb Filler and Director Jan Bolwell.

Another highlight is David Downes’ perfectly pitched soundscapes and Kate’s wonderfully handled and ever-changing accents, perfected with the help of accent coach Hilary Norris. At times the show could have benefited from a few more moments of reflection or slightly longer pauses to allow the audience to catch their breath and to add further weight to moments of poignancy, however this is really nit-picking an otherwise well thought out and presented show.

The programme contains a quote from Phyllis JasonSmith: “Och, never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”It is clear that the storyteller apple did not fall far from the tree in Kate and this story was definitely an enjoyable watch.


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A mighty achievement

Review by Tim Stevenson 19th Sep 2018

I’ll Tell You This for Nothing – My Mother the War Hero, now on at BATS, has so many things going for it, it’s hard for a reviewer to know where to start. There were so many good fairies gathered round the cradle when this show was in its infancy, they must’ve been stacked several deep and elbowing each other for an opportunity to shower their gifts on the babe.

First up, it’s a tremendous story. Young Irishwoman Phyllis Jason-Smith enrols as a military nurse and serves in Europe in World War 2, with all the attendant horrors that entails. Having emigrated to New Zealand, she passes on her stories to her family. In her 80s, she receives the Legion d’Honneur – the highest French order of merit – for extreme bravery during the war. Not just during the war, but throughout her life, she shows extraordinary qualities of resourcefulness, humour, compassion and bravery – the latter displayed not only under gunfire, but face-to-face with her formidable mother.

The show is beautifully devised. Phyllis’s story is presented through enacted scenes from her life, dialogue between Phyllis and daughter/ writer/ performer Kate Jason-Smith, and narrative addressed straight to the audience by Kate. Material has been selected to create an effective balance between personal experience and the larger historical events through which Phyllis moves. There’s plenty of adventure-story pace, and also moments when the action slows to allow us to look into the characters’ hearts. 

There’s a wealth of variety and movement in the presentation of the show’s material to hold our interest. Kate JasonSmith offers us a whole cast of characters, each strongly delineated through mannerisms, facial expressions and accent. Generous helpings of humour and romance are interleaved through the harrowing story of Phyllis’s nursing exploits. 

Kate JasonSmith’s performance is a mighty achievement in its own right (with one qualification). Versatile, skilled and charismatic, she quickly establishes and maintains a strong rapport with her audience. The show asks a lot of her physically, emotionally and technically, and she gives and gives.

Where so many good fairies are gathered together, you might expect one who’s not quite so good. There were a lot of memory lapses throughout last night’s performance, particularly towards the end. These could be understood and accepted as an integral part of the play; an illustration of the elusiveness of memory itself, appropriate to a play about looking back at the flickering shadows of the past. One audience member at the end drew a connection with the harrowing nature of some of the play’s content. Perhaps Jason-Smith and her director and dramaturge will consider ways of dealing with this aspect of the performance, in the interests of improved pace and continuity, not to mention the performer’s own comfort. 

Director Jan Bolwell, designer Lisa Maule, dramaturge Deb Filler and producer Shirley Domb have done well to support Jason-Smith in developing this well-crafted production. A special mention to accent coach Hilary Norris – the accents are a delight – and to David Downes for a well-chosen and presented soundscape.

As a show about the life of an ordinary woman who achieved extraordinary things, I’ll Tell You This for Nothing is a highly appropriate offering from the production team and from Bats on the occasion of women’s winning the right to vote, 125 years ago to the day.


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