Smell the blood and gore of war

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 12:58 08/04/2014
Lewis Stanton
ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ
HISTORY BOYS: In the trenches with Mark Wingate and Adam Lines as part of this year’s Anzac Experience from the Dramatix Theatre Development Trust.

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The annual theatre of war set up by a Nelson performance group will take a darker twist this year.

This year's Anzac Experience - a live historical theatre display by Dramatix Theatre Development Trust - has an R16 rating for the specially arranged night tours of the "trenches".

The setting inside the Energy Centre at Founders Heritage Park is a replica World War I scene of no man's land, complete with trenches, a downed German Fokker tri-plane and scenes from the aftermath of a gas attack.

Director TJ Ramsay said the atmosphere would pay homage to the horrors of the Great War.

The sights and scents of the blood and gore, and the rotten, muddy trenches will be part of the "multi-sensory" experience.

Actor Scott Iggo, who plays the role of a military police member, said the show aimed to convey as closely as possible what the soldiers went through in the trenches.

While it did not have rats and stinking, oozing, thigh-deep mud, the show did come with smell - the terrible smell of the trenches, the stench of death and the odours of a gas attack.

Ramsay said she was able to source the scents after visiting the Edinburgh Dungeon Experience, which included an "unpleasant, definite smell". "It will be interesting to see how people cope, but it will be a sensory assault."

Ramsay said to mark the centenary of the start of World War I, the show wanted to show a German side to the war as well. The theme is Germans and allies and the setting is the Western Front in France, 1915. Visitors then travel through a "time lapse" mineshaft and emerge in 1916 to the scene of a tank battle.

Last year's Blitz Experience, which attracted about 3000 people, brought some to tears, particularly those who had lived through the London bombings.

"It was quite cathartic for some. I learned that for one man, who had lived through the blitz, it was the first time he had been able to deal with it," Ramsay said.

Between 60-70 volunteer actors will be in the show, which is now in its seventh year. The set is designed with help from "military consultant" Greg Olson, of Mapua. "He draws it and we pull it together," Ramsay said.

Stage management is organised by Nigel Gibbs and sound specialist Grant Ellis also plays a part in helping to recreate the historic time and place.

The special R16 night tours of the Anzac Experience will be on April 19 and 20 only, and will be $10 a ticket for the half-hour experience. Bookings are essential, email dramatix@dramatix.co.nz

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The "family friendly" daytime show runs continuously from 10am to 4.30pm from April 25 to 27. Entry is $2 at the gate and there is a small extra charge to enter the "trench experience".

- Nelson

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