Review: Dead Men’s Wars
Three high school students from Australia and New Zealand have won a competition to visit Gallipoli for the ANZAC day commemorations. They are escorted over by two company representatives. Everything is going according to the schedule when one of the students goes off script. The fallout affects them all.
This is the 2015 STAB production and is a collaboration between Canberra Youth Theatre and Long Cloud Youth Theatre. According to the Writer’s Note in the programme it explores the “way the [ANZAC] story [of mateship] sits with us today” and the content was “driven by the artists of CYT and Long Cloud Youth Theatre.” It’s an interesting way to look at the mythologising of ANZAC; the questions from a generation/s who have little direct connection to the original ANZACs.
The script sometimes verges on the edge of lecturing but mostly allows the actors to explore the questions. Bella Guarrera as Lori, the student who goes off script, is the centre of this story. I liked both her sulky teenager and her wide-eyed tourist. Lydia Buckley-Forman plays Helen, one of the chaperones. She and Andrew Eddey (Darryn, the other chaperone) work together well as they tussle for leadership and control over the tour. Nathalie Morris (Charlie) and Richard Cotta (Kip) are the other two students. Both give a good sense of their characters – Morris a quietly determined podcaster, and Cotta a hearty type from a military family. Liam Kelly is Owen, a slightly mysterious and provocative individual who knows Lori. Kelly and Cotta also play two soldiers. Their opening scene nicely contrasts with the scenes in which Budkley-Gorman and Morris play nurses. The individual performers are supported by an ensemble. Bella Austin, Alex Tunui, Keegan Bragg, Liam Whitney, Kirsten Jongsma are well rehearsed. It’s a genuine pleasure to watch them whirl about the stage or deliver lines.
There were a few technical issues the night I saw it, but I’m sure the company will have settled into BATS by now.
- Dead Men’s Wars by Ralph McCubbin Howell, directed by Brett Adam, at BATS Theatre to 31 October 2015