Theatre Review: Anzac Eve
By Dave Armstrong, directed by Jamie McCaskill
Bats Theatre, Wellington, 6.30pm, until March 25.
As another ANZAC day approaches, another perspective of the atrocities that occurred at Gallipoli and Chunuk Bair are aired, this time through the eyes of four young people, in Dave Armstrong's intriguing new play Anzac Eve.
As the title denotes, it takes place on the eve of the dawn commemorations at Gallipoli where hundreds of people gather to be ready for the early morning ANZAC services.
Amongst them are two young Kiwi guys from Dunedin who, coincidently, just happened to have gone to the same primary school. Phil (Hayden Frost) is the extrovert know-it-all who continually quotes facts and figures more to impress than anything else. In contrast is the intellectual Ben (Barnaby Olson), more introverted and cynical, who has a Master's degree in History and looks for the reasons why behind all Ben's facts and figures.
They are joined by fun-loving Maia (Ruby Hansen) of Italian extraction and Lizzie (Trae Te Wiki), a "mozzie" (Australian born Maori), and while the differences between these two characters are far less defined than the guys, there is sufficient to set up some interesting interactions later in the play.
So, sitting on a hill on the Gallipoli Peninsula, they talk, discuss, argue and cover the whole gamut of opinion, from Ben, who has a very liberal almost anti-war stance, to Lizzie's patriotic conservatism.
Armstrong's knowledge of the period, and Gallipoli in particular, is impressive, as the information he gives the characters to pour forth is boundless and almost becomes information overload.
And while they discuss the action of the war back then, on the stage, there is very little action, as the four spend the entire time sitting in a row talking until the play reaches its climax at the end.
But it is to the credit of not only Armstrong's taut and incisive writing, but the ability of the actors under Jamie McCaskill's skillful direction, that they are able to breath so much life and energy into the dialogue to make it engaging and interesting.
Their confidence in being able to deliver the endless, rapid-fire dialogue with as much feeling and emotion as they do is awesome and while there is little that is new in the play (and some of it has often been presented before), it is nevertheless a fascinating take on one of New Zealand's defining moments in history.