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Amy Matthews, Anita Hegh and David Terry in Light Begins to Fade. All images: Clare Hawley.

THEATRE: 11 APRIL 2015

By GERALDINE WORTHINGTON

The Anzac Project: Dear Mum and Dad, by Geoffrey Atherden; Light Begins to Fade, by Vanessa Bates | Directed by Mark Kilmurry

Ensemble | Ensemble Theatre, Kirribilli, Sydney | Until 10 May

The Anzac Project is a double bill which includes plays by Geoffrey Atherden (Dear Mum and Dad) and Vanessa Bates (Light Begins to Fade). Both writers are from Newcastle and were commissioned by Ensemble to write plays to commemorate the centenary of the landing of the Anzacs at Gallipoli in April 1915.

Considering that the Gallipoli campaign was one of Turkey’s greatest victories and is regarded as a defining moment in their history, and further, that it was a major allied failure, it is worthy of meditation as to why it is that the Gallipoli legend continues to grow.

These two plays deal with, in similar ways, this complex issue.

The first play, Dear Mum and Dad, begins with a married couple, Holly (Anita Hegh) and Kosta (David Terry), who are searching for missing medals awarded to Holly’s great grandfather who fought in WW1. During the search Holly finds letters which Bert (Eric Beecroft) had written and these are then re-enacted. Bert dictates his letters to Cathy, a nurse (Amy Matthews) and Bert’s high fevers induce flashbacks and illusions of life at home with his family.

The plays share the same set, a simple but evocatively effective design by Mark Kilmurry. Margaret Gill and Alana Canceri carefully coordinate the wardrobe to ensure period perfection and ease of transition, whilst Verity Hampson’s subtle lighting design, and Daryl Wallis’s impressive sound design, animate the action and augment the dynamics of the drama. This is a most impressive production and the skills and creativity of the team have allowed the two plays to be viewed as one piece of theatre.

Light Begins to Fade is set in a TV rehearsal room, where four writers brainstorm ideas for a series which is scheduled to adapt the Gallipoli story for a modern audience, and, once again, the brainstorming of the possible past starts to impact on the present.

Both playwrights present economic dialogue that delivers powerful domestic stories which are intimately and historically detailed in their examination of the ambiguous impact of war on family members.

Neither play is didactic. Rather they have a mythical quality which is brought to life visually by Kilmurrys’ superb staging and visionary direction, resulting in intellectual theatre that is powerful and that successfully addresses the intricacies in both staging and writing.

The cast is nothing short of magnificent. They are at all times an ensemble. Their impressive skills vividly depict not only the horrors of war in a deeply intimate and moving way but also its tragic impact on domestic life.

This is compelling viewing. A must see. Thumbs up!

Anita Hegh and David Terry in Dear Mum and Dad.

Eric Beecroft and David Terry in Dear Mum and Dad.

David Terry (back) and Eric Beecroft in Light Begins to Fade.

Amy Matthews and Eric Beecroft in Dear Mum and Dad.