Home Guard comes home

Man stuck in canon scene: Allan Butland, Graeme Barsanti, Nadine Maisey, Gary Marshall, and Steve Leslie. (The legs in the canon belong to Nairn Wilson).
Man stuck in canon scene: Allan Butland, Graeme Barsanti, Nadine Maisey, Gary Marshall, and Steve Leslie. (The legs in the canon belong to Nairn Wilson).

Old soldiers are the stars of the Havelock Theatre Company's newest production, Grand-dad's Army.

It opens on Thursday night in the Havelock Town Hall, and actress Lorain Day (Sergeant Wilson) is certain it will be a big success.

The play is written and directed by Moenui artist and writer Rick Edmonds, and follows a group of Home Guard soldiers who nobody remembers to collect from their Chetwode Islands post after World War II.

The fisherman
The fisherman

Unaware that the war is over, they continue their daily patrols for the next 68 years, scanning the horizon for approaching enemy forces.

Eventually, Department of Conservation staff rescue them, and the men are brought to Havelock, where they must settle into 21st-century urban life.

"Then they face new battles of misunderstandings and delightful turns of comedy," says Day.

This is her second production with the Havelock Theatre Company, and she says it is like joining a big family. "It's lovely to see the pleasure people are having mixing together with different age groups."

Day joined the cast of the 2012 double-bill show Radio Gaga. Before that, her last time on stage was at Marlborough Girls' College, when a more senior student, future prime minister Jenny Shipley (nee Robson), was the props manager.

She cannot remember the play's title but says her character smoked cigarettes, and Robson found her a fake one that glowed at one end when it was sucked.

"Even in those days, it was a no-no for a third-former to be smoking at school."

Day left school to become a teacher and book publisher, and 30 years of her adult life were spent in Auckland. Last February, she and partner Brett Avison "saw the light", quit city life and moved to Havelock.

The theatre has been a great way to feel part of the community, she says. "There's a real family atmosphere; everyone's asking about everyone else."

Last year, Radio Gaga cast members were fearful when heavy rain flooded the Wakamarina River at Canvastown, cutting off access to State Highway 6 and the road to Havelock for a colleague.

The producer was "rushing around" wondering how the Canvastown actor could be replaced, Day remembers. Then the door burst open with a gust of wind and the actor appeared, having forded the river in his tractor, knowing "the show must go on".

Popular demand has seen the return of two favourite Havelock Theatre Company production characters - the elderly fishermen Bob and Billy, who go down to the waterfront most days of the week.

"They become embroiled in a very complicated plot - which I'm under strict instructions not to give away.

"But it's integral to the plot and moves the play along . . . You'll have to come and see it for yourself."

Grand-dad's Army opens with an 8pm gala performance on Thursday at the Havelock Town Hall, with Bladen Wines and Slip Inn complimentary wine and nibbles. Tickets (adults $18, seniors and students $15, children under 14 $10) can be bought at the door or from Eyes on Nature, Havelock, Still Books at Tan's Place, Blenheim, or Take Note, Picton.

The Marlborough Express