VOICES FROM THE FRONT
05/04/2017 - 08/04/2017
A POIGNANT, STIRRING STORY. AN INSPIRING PRODUCTION BASED ON ACTUAL LETTERS SENT HOME FROM THE FRONT…
with memoirs of Kiwi Gallipoli veterans; quotes and minutes from the Council of War. The story follows three humble New Zealand families; from the excitement of enlistment, to the training in Egypt with hilarious adventures amongst the street life and brothels of Cairo. We follow their journey to the Dardanelles, full of hope and anxious to do their bit for Britain, while their families at home wait for news.
The emotional finale depicts the evacuation from Gallipoli and the soldiers’ anguish on withdrawing in front of the enemy and leaving their fallen comrades behind. ‘Tread softly boys…we don’t want our mates to hear us leaving.
Voices from the Front is a unique production, of courage and endurance, mateship, good humour, survival and decency in the face of dreadful odds. The production features much loved songs from the era such as ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’, ‘Just A Song At Twilight’, ‘If You Were the Only Girl in the World’, ‘Look for the Silver Lining’. and many more.
HANNAH PLAYHOUSE, Cnr Ambridge Tce & Courtenay Place, Wellington
(Tuesday 4 April, preview)
Wednesday 5 – Saturday 8 April 2017
7.30pm (+ 2pm Saturday)
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The performance is approximately 2 hours 15 minutes including interval.
Lt Colonel William Malone Matthew Pike
Ida Malone Delwyn Monk
Charles Bean/General Hamilton/ Vaughan Meneses
Governor Mr Brown/Brigadier General Johnston /Clerk Jeff Agnew
Ruth Brown Janelle Pollock
Harry Brown James Barnett
Lizzy Brown Eryn Street
Mrs Latham Susan Holt
Artie Latham Richard Nicholls
Billy Tom Martin
Dan Jay Daysh
Joe Robert Arnold
Lord Kitchener/General Godley Paul Weaver
Winston Churchill/General Bridges Neil Brewer Sergeant/Lord Fisher/ General Birdwood Lee Dowsett
Sir Lloyd George Vaughan Crimmins
Sister Brooke/Prostitute Kate Ghent
Mrs McAlister/Prostitute Michelle Soper
Vaughan Crimmins, Ashleigh Dixon, Kate Ghent, Katie Haywood, Jacey McGrath, William Morgan, Lauren Simpkins, Michelle Soper
Sue Windsor - Keyboard
Natalie Hunt - Cello/Clarinet
Steve Morrison - Guitar/Banjo
Alan Burden - Drums
Director Sandy Brewer
Writer/Producer Amanda Stone
Musical Director Sue Windsor
Choreographer Deborah Hale
Production Manager Jennifer Pearce
Stage Manager Sarah Arndt
Stage Crew Amy Bradshaw, Adrian Johns, Karen Jones, Russell Turner
Set Design Sandy Brewer, John Mahan
Set Build Manager John Mahan
Set Builders Colin Brown, Vaughan Crimmins, Wendy Howard, Russell Kitto , Anna Lowe Delwyn Monk, Russell Nelson, Jennifer Pearce, Barry Stone
Sound Design Steve Lloyd
Sound Operation Steve Lloyd, Ollivier Ballester
Lighting Design John Mahan
Lighting Operation John Mahan, Colin Brown
Mic Wranglers Wendy Howard, Adrian Johns
Audio Visual Design Tanisha Wardle, Sandy Brewer, Blue House Productions
Props Julie Knight, Jennifer Pearc, Amanda Stone
Armourer Warwick Thorpe, Sayeret Operations
Wardrobe Wendy Howard, Amanda Stone
Uniforms supplied by Greg Olsen
Dressers Wendy Howard, Sharron Pardoe, Amanda Stone
Hair Natasha Sime, DollhouseDo
Program Amanda Stone
Poster/Billboard Design Jared Pallesen
2 hrs 15 mins, including interval
Saved by the singing
Review by John Smythe 07th Apr 2017
It’s ‘war play season’ again as ANZAC Day approaches. ANZAC Eve, currently on the road with Tour Makers, and An Awfully Big Adventure, about to be revived at Te Papa’s Soundings Theatre by Capital E, both make a virtue of having small casts (four each) to tell big stories with ingenious creativity.
By contrast Amanda Stone’s Voices from the Front, directed by Sandy Brewer, has a cast of 26 and four in the band. And it has to be said this dramatisation of the Gallipoli story from a Kiwi perspective is, by comparison, very straightforward, methodical and – for those who have heard it told year after year – rather uninspired.
Certainly it ticks all the boxes at every level as the cast act out the saga’s historical sweep from enlisting and leaving, through training and landing in the wrong place, to fighting, suffering and dying in appalling conditions as bit players in the ‘sideshow’ that was supposed to see everyone home by Christmas. Winston Churchill, Lloyd George; Lords Kitchener and Fisher; Generals Hamilton, Godley, Bridges, Johnston and Birdwood all make appearances, somewhat shady in some cases.
Lt Colonel William Malone and his wife bridge the gap to the ordinal Kiwi families – the Browns and Lathams – who should ‘bring it all home’, so to speak. But the text in these short scenes is too often functional telling, leaving the actors little space to ‘be’ their character and draw us in with empathy, even when they – as many do – address us directly to share their thoughts and feelings, with words from actual letters and diaries.
Yet despite the broad brush ‘more is less’ dramaturgy, the inexorable tragedy of what happens, the appalling waste of young lives and the long term damage it causes, cannot help but register, albeit more objectively than it might in a better-crafted work.
Painstaking effort has clearly gone into the set elements, featuring panels that contrast Kiwi homes on one side with the trenches on the other. But too often the business of repositioning them holds up the action, allowing us time to contemplate alternative staging conventions that would serve the pace and flow of the story better.
What does get through to deeper parts of our humanity is the singing, thanks to a skilled cast and Musical Director Sue Windsor. Familiar songs are smoothly integrated into the action and the harmonies often enrich the emotional insights.
When Harry Brown (James Barnett) gets news of the birth of his son, the poignant ‘If You Were the Only Girl in the World’ duet with his wife Lizzy (Eryn Street), sung ‘across oceans’, is the first truly poignant moment for me. The runner, Artie Latham (Richard Nicholls), hits the mark too with ‘When This Lousy War is Over’.
Matthew Pike has a quietly compelling presence as William Malone, showing us clearly why his men grow to respect, admire and love him, and his singing is sublime. His ‘Just a Song at Twilight’ duet with his wife, Ida (Delwyn Monk), also ‘across oceans’ on the eve of the assault on Chunuk Bair, is a beautifully rendered counterpoint to the horror to come.
While the boys exchange dark humour in the trenches, there has been a lack of hard-hitting irony in the play until Nurse Ruth Brown (Janelle Pollock) conveys deep-set distress and anger while singing ‘Look For the Silver Lining.’ (At last I get a whiff of the iconic Joan Littlewood satire Oh, What a Lovely War!, reigniting my hope that someone will do it before the 2018 centenary of Armistice Day).
Topping these most moving elements of Voices From the Front, Matthew Pike’s Malone closes the show with an eerie ‘beyond the grave’ rendition of ‘Keep the Home Fires Burning’, transcending all that’s gone before.
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