It is 100 years since Gallipoli thus the significance of 1812’s latest offering, by Australian playwright Kevin Summers, Patient 12. Based on a true story of a young soldier who was returned home so badly damaged he was unrecognisable, apart from a single tattoo. Therein lies the poignant and strong anti-war message of Patient 12.

Director Dexter Bourke was initially attracted to the significance of the plays setting – 1919 surrounding events of WW1. “As we are recognising the 100 year anniversary of the Gallipoli disaster, I felt this story was a perfect reflection of the futility of war and the effects it has on individuals and the community” Bourke explains. ” Many parts of the play are just as relevant now as they were many years ago and I believe we need to continue looking beyond the tales of heroism and jingoistic propaganda to see how stupid managed warfare can be.”

The story is told through the eyes of the doctor who becomes embroiled in the mystery of Patient 12’s identity and starts a forensic journey to identify him.

Bourke explains that the playwright examines the expectations and traumas of war, along with the resultant tragedies on the battlefields and at home. “The play explores the diverse community and family demands on individuals involved in the emotional logistics of fighting a war. There are enormous expectations placed upon those directly involved, as well as on those at home wanting their loved ones to survive intact. There is also a study of how people desperately cling to hope, when in reality to do so is futile, but a perfectly understandable human trait particularly when it involves those close to us. While the disaster of war itself has been microscopically examined over the years, it is too often the individual stories that are never heard. The value of life itself is closely dealt with throughout and the culmination of events within the play demonstrates Summers reflective views of war and it’s effects on people. Dealing with life, death and the precarious positions effecting all characters is examined to the very end.”

A historical play such as this can be fraught with challenges and Bourke has identified trying to convey and maintain sentiments surrounding WW1 and the aftermath on individuals, as one of the most challenging aspect of the play’s intent. “Dressing the set and characters to convey the atmosphere of the time has been an enjoyable challenge and I believe once up to production, we will have succeeded in making it as ‘real’ as possible. The other challenge has been to have the actors play their roles in the manner of the day using speech and actions more common a hundred years ago.”

One of the more profound aspects of this work is that it is Australian. Bourke concurs and says he has a strong belief in the importance of supporting local talent in theatre in all facets. “There are too often overseas written plays out there which bear little or no relevance to Australia and these are often marketed as being better than locally written and produced plays. A key element to me in directing Patient 12 is that it surrounds Australia’s involvement in WW1 and the social tragedy it left us with. That it surrounds events at the Caulfield Military Hospital in 1919 also adds to the action and Australian significance of the play. There is too much we don’t know about the impact of war on Australians and the author has beautifully crafted a thoroughly engaging script to help us better understand the horrors of war at a local level. Australians deserve to know more about the impact of war on its citizens and I could not imagine an overseas author having the ability to do so nearly as well as Summers has.”

Bourke describes the play as a tragic study of the effects of war on people using elements of historical fact and human behaviour. Where an unidentified and comatose soldier could possibly belong to a number of people who each initially at least, believe he may be theirs. Who is he and will he ever be revealed? An endearing play that we can all relate with, and one that audiences will fondly remember for a long time.

It can be argued that nothing good, not one damned thing, came out of World War One. This play is a pillar of that contention.

Patient 12
Season: Oct 1st – Oct 24th
Wed,Thu,Fri,Sat: 8.00pm
Matinee: 11th & 18th – 4.00pm
3-5 Rose Street
Upper Ferntree Gully 3156