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Auckland City Harbour News : April 23rd 2014
Auckland’s most powerful media NETWORK Unbeatable coverage of Wednesday, April 23, 2014 808,000 readers 15+ Ph 09 525 0666 Source: Nielsen CMI Q3 2011–Q2 2012 Chunuk Bair on stage By JESS LEE HEROIC stories from Gallipoli are returning to the stage after a 25-year absence. The Auckland Theatre Company is bringing Once on Chunuk Bair to the Maidment Theatre in June. The Maurice Shadbolt play is set between dawn and dusk on August 8, 1915. It follows the Wellington Battalion’s effort to capture the strategic peak of Chunuk Bair on Turkey’s Gallipoli Peninsula. Only 70 of the 760 men who took to the summit returned unharmed. ‘‘These young men headed off to war in good faith to fight for king and country, only to be used as cannon fodder by their British commanders,’’ Auckland Theatre Company artistic director Colin McColl says. ‘‘Once on Chunuk Bair shows the courage and endurance of our brave lads, the friendships and camaraderie they had for each other. ‘‘It’s an event that has defined the Anzac spirit.’’ Director Ian Mune says it is important that people hear the stories. ‘‘This is a part of New Zea- Chunuk Bair: Actor Jordan Mooney is one of a cast of 13 bringing Maurice Shadbolt’s Once on Chunuk Bair to the stage at the Maidment Theatre. land. In amongst the death and destruction the New Zealanders were able to see themselves as having their own identity rather than just Poignant memories The Auckland City Harbour News asked some of the cast of Once in Chunuk Bair what Anzac Day means to them. Stephen Lovatt My grandfather, who I knew well, had his 19th birthday in the trenches of Gallipoli. He was wounded twice and sent back twice. He was told he could go home after the retreat from Gallipoli but he wasn’t done. He reenlisted and served for the rest of the war on the Western Front. At the outbreak of WWII he tried to re-enlist but at 43 he was too old and was probably considered more useful to the Kiwi war effort as a successful farmer. He was used as a drill sergeant major for the initial training of men at a camp in the Wairarapa. I have been given his dress medals of service – he wore them every year to Anzac Day parades. Tim Carlsen Anzac Day for me is about remembrance of those who fought and suffered for freedom and for the many who never returned home. It’s a day that continues to reveal stories of intrigue and mystery of what war was really about and how the human spirit persevered such extremities. It’s also a reminder that even today war is still an ongoing ‘‘event’’ that takes place and affects millions of people worldwide – from soldiers to civilians. My grandfather, Bill McGechie, served in WWII in the RNZAF. Being in the air force made sense for him at the time – it looked glamorous, you get to fly and of course the uniform looked good. Being completely new to flying, this fresh recruit trained for several months in New Zealand before serving abroad. He had a close call in Gisborne when his aircraft, a Harvard trainer, struck trees on an airfield boundary during a night flight. The plane was destroyed and he was seriously injured. I can recall him showing me a piece of the parachute that he had kept since the incident in 1943 and would still manage a laugh or two as he described his brush with fate. Kevin Keys My most vivid memories of Anzac Day come from the services in Wellington where I used to play in the air force band as a music student. This meant standing on parade for long stretches as the service went on at the cenotaph and I was always admiring of the army sentries’ stillness and stoicism – especially in the pelting rain and wind of Wellington. I was definitely more fidgety than them. It was the moments of stillness and reflection during those ceremonies that had the most meaning for me – a bubble of time to think of the heroism, the sacrifice and the incredible waste of life represented by those being remembered. Family connection: Actor Stephen Lovatt’s grandfather celebrated his 19th birthday in the trenches of Gallipoli. Photo:ANDREWGORRIE Tragic story: Ian Mune returns to direct the poignant production Once on Chunuk Bair. as members of the British Empire.’’ Mune will lead a cast of 13 actors, including Jordan Mooney, Andrew Grainger and Wesley Dowdell with codirector Cameron Rhodes. The late Shadbolt penned the play after a visit to Chunuk Bair in 1977 and it was Mune who directed its first performance in 1982 at the Mercury Theatre. Mune says it is a demanding play to perform with all of the cast remaining on stage throughout. It was adapted into a feature film in 1991. Photo: LAWRENCE SMITH Mune hopes the play will have as strong a response as it did at the time. ‘‘Interestingly, around that time in the 1980s there was a resurgence in interest around Anzac, whereas when I was 20 people would ask ‘why are we celebrating war?’ But we can’t forget the people who gave their lives – war is a terrible waste of life.’’ Once on Chunuk Bair runs from June 12 to July 5 at the Maidment Theatre, 8 Alfred St. ❚ Go to atc.co.nz or phone 308 2383 for tickets.
April 18th 2014