Lullaby Jock: Silent Generations

Centrepoint, Palmerston North

07/07/2007 - 04/08/2007

Production Details

Written and performed by Simon Ferry
Directed by Tim Spite

“Never let the truth get in the way of a good yarn.”  That’s what Jock Ferry used to say – a storyteller, a singer, a familyman, a teacher and a friend.  Jock was the life of the party and the joker that kept everybody upbeat and happy.  He was the man to sing the songs and tell the jokes and tease the ladies and ridicule the blokes.  He raised a family of nine in Pahiatua and he affected many people in his life.  But, Jock, like your father or uncle or grandfather or brother had some secrets too.  Secrets that he wouldn’t share.  Secrets that tormented his happy soul.

When Jock went to war in the forties, wanting to see the world and discover adventure, he didn’t know what he was in for.  He found Italy and North Africa the most boring places to be…until you got to the front line.  Then all hell broke loose and you stomped through the mud and blood of enemy and friend alike, singing and hoping, praying and dying every day.

Even for Jock, who was used to kidding himself as much as his mates, the truth of war was a tough cross to bear.  The dead Frenchman whose hand all soldiers would shake for laughs, the mad surgeon hacking off legs, the Italian woman shot dead…The faces never went away, the noise never stopped, but the drink helped keep the horror deep, deep inside.

When Jock returned and became a teacher he was still a rogue, playing practical jokes, stealing pianos and always singing and telling stories.

This story begins with his funeral.  Lying in his coffin, he laughs at the stories being told about him, “A load of codswallop, they get that from me…”

Lullaby Jock: Silent Generations is a collection of true stories, embellishments and fantastical tales as told by Jock Ferry and many others affected by WWII.  War continues to affect everyone in the world and every generation born unto it.  This is how it changed one man and one generation.

Centrepoint Theatre’s Artistic Director, Simon Ferry has devised and performs this very personal solo piece.  Simon was the course leader for the Ucol Theatre School for five years prior to his current appointment.  He specialized in devising new  works during his time at Ucol.  Adapted from a monologue he performed as part of his graduation from Toi Whakaari: the New Zealand Drama School, Lullaby Jock: Silent Generation has been fifteen years in the making.  Simon has used interviews from the community, family, friends and war veterans to craft this story.  The result is a piece of cultural history, a history of friendship, family and warfare.

To bring this work together Simon has teamed up with top devisor Tim Spite.  Also a Toi Whakaari grad (1991), Tim has predominantly worked as an actor racking up over seventy professional shows.  He has also co-written/devised a dozen productions, seven of which were produced by his company SEEyD.  Tim has applied a process of research, improvisation, editing, workshopping and finally rehearsing to create this work with Simon.

Coping with a devised show has also been a challenge for set designers Shelley Irwin and Harvey Taylor.  The organic nature of the process means that ideas are constantly changing and thus they must be prepared for new concepts at any stage.  So far the set design consists of a wall of beer bottles (about 800 or so), a white floor and a coffin allowing for easy transitions between multiple characters and settings.

The use of white is helpful (but glass perhaps the opposite) for lighting designer Natasha James’ (Doubt 2006) challenge of using projections as part of her design.  Using images from the war and photographs in a slideshowesque manner help to create the feeling of the era. “Like the stories we tell light refracts through glass – it’s how the hues play and display that is the dangerous and exciting prospect.”

Widely considered to be among the top directors and performers on stage in New Zealand Simon Ferry’s performance will be worth the price alone.  Add to that a top professional team from Wellington and Palmerston and you are guaranteed an experience that will move you to tears of joy and pain.

This is the life of Jock Ferry and the life of many a man from his generation.

Lullaby Jock: Silent Generations plays from the 7th of July until the 4th of August.  Performances are at 6.30pm on Wednesdays, 8.00pm Thursday through Saturday and at 5.00pm on Sundays.

Bookings can be made online at or by calling (06) 354 5740.  No booking charges apply!!!  

Theatre , Solo ,

Loving portrait carried off with flair

Review by John C Ross 24th Jul 2007

Ferry begins as himself, at an invisible lectern, launching into a funeral tribute to his own father. Presently he becomes his father, resting on top of his coffin, and reacting with humorous scorn. At times he becomes his mother, a brother, his father’s army mate, an officer, whoever, and often enough both participants in a conversation. It is accomplished, in both senses, with no trace of strain or awkwardness.

Jock Ferry had survived as an infantry private in Italy, when many didn’t, and would be spooked for the rest of his days and nights by experiences he would rarely speak of. Booze made them bearable, back then and thereafter. Singing also helped.

Back home he begat nine children, and was a kindly father, an inveterate practical joker, and for thirty-five years a popular and gifted schoolteacher.

A one-person show is always a hard ask for an actor, and one so close to home must be even more so, yet Simon Ferry carries it off with tact and flair. At one point Ferry the actor metatheatrically splits himself, with one part of himself justifying to the other the use of a structuring `theatrical device.’ It’s neatly done.

The only scenic prop, the coffin, is manipulated to serve as a door, a bike, a piano, or whatever. The `backdrop’ is a wall of shelving with hundreds of bottles, some of which come in handy when Jock needs a drink.

The latest guise of this show, first performed in 1993, evidently owes something to its director Tim Spite. It hangs together effectively, flows well, and provides a moving portrayal of a man who was both an interesting individual and a representative of his generation.
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“All the actors in this one-man show are excellent”

Review by Peter Hawes 10th Jul 2007

I was immediately taken by the set – created by Shelley Irwin in only her second shot at such things:  a wall of bottles; most of them beer, but with a peerless, off-centred row of Gordon’s Gin bisecting them. Illumined by the dazzling lights of Natasha James (also her second crack at things for Centrepoint), these blessed receptacles produce, in the spaces between them, the images of wine glasses. It was an effect no one in the production had expected, so eeha to serendipity – the drinkingman’s Glass Menagerie.

And you need to look no further than this glacier-face of contained booze for the nub of Jock’s lullaby. Jock went to war, and the only cure for war is booze. Through booze you can reach the level of insanity that war demands – but in moderation. (I don’t know if we’re allowed to say it aloud yet, but the RSAs of NZ have been licensed lunatic asylums since 1945.) A bullet passes through your pillow in the middle of the night; you wake your tent-mate to tell of your narrow escape; and there’s the bullet. In his head. Madness, in such circumstances is just commonsense.  So, sensibly, you get drunk instead.

And Jock is sensible in other ways, too. Screams emanate from a burning house many years after the war. Jock stops, ponders, then goes his way. You can get burnt saving people. Jock had long ago learnt to be sensible. You don’t go back to bury comrades, it’s unsafe. When there’s Germans in the next room you don’t attack, that’s silly – you hide. Commonsense.

In other words Simon Ferry’s voyage round his father is by no means simply an exercise in fond nostalgia. And nor can we bury our heads in the sands of fiction – there’s photographic evidence; a brother is murdered, and there he is, smiling from footage on a plywood coffin. And at play’s end, there’s a portrait of Jock, indubitably the father of the man who has just portrayed him. Intriguing. Spelt spooky.

But Jock is a hoot and far larger than his foibles. He lies, for at least the first fourteen seconds of the play, in the only other bit of set – the abovementioned coffin, which is to compellingly become a machine gun, pulpit, motorbike, guitar etc – and the ivied wall of a convent, girt by the outspread thighs of a virgin (later sarcramented into legal outspreadedness by marriage to Jock, resulting in nine births).

So, anyway, up jumps dead Jock Ferry, father of nine, fourteen seconds into his funeral. He turns to Simon Ferry who happens to be the eulogist, son, father, everyone of note in the eponymous character’s life – and our narrator – and demands to know why he has been funeralled in an ill-fitting suit: "What’s Saint Peter gonna say when he sees my camel toe?"

He then wrests the story from the narrator and leads us through his life, from his courtship to his premature demobbment from the Education Force … for taking his class on a field trip to a brewery!  

Depictions of one’s father are surprisingly rare and there will inevitably be comparisons with A Voyage Round My Father and The Daylight Atheist but the major point of difference is John Mortimer didn’t do his dad on stage and nor did Tom Scott. I know from direct experience there are unconscious inhibitions induced by theatrical self portraiture which were no doubt blasted through by the no-bullshit direction of the marvelously talented Tim Spite.  

All the actors in this one-man show are excellent. Ferry does voices with blackbird authenticity and switches shape expertly. True testimony to his skills lies in the fact that Ferry pere can sing far better than can the actual Ferry fils.

While a man with the splendid looks, but incipient second-chinnedness of Alex Baldwin, Ferry moves with uncanny speed: by the time the lights have blinked to black and back, he’s someone else. Much of this energy will have come from directorial hectoring: `I told him keep up the speed, keep up the bloody speed!’ Tim Spite was muttering after performance one. And he did, they both did; they kept a fine, brave play right up to speed. 
For more production details, click on the title at the top of this review. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


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