The Girls In Grey promises to be a powerful and moving piece of theatre alive with the spirit of ANZAC.
The play tells the stories of three Australian Army nurses during World War I who bear witness to the horrors of war and the devastation that ensues particularly for the young men of the front line. It is a gritty and honest portrayal of a shocking part of world history the significance of which is what drew Director Karen Martin to the project.
“Most of my recent theatre work has been directing my own texts so it was an exciting prospect to direct this new contemporary writing,” explains Martin..” I am committed to creating theatre that has significance or contributes to our community and I believe that the research and integrity of the writing offers an audience the opportunity to understand the experience of the nurses of WW1. These are stories we have not heard nor shared before and need to be part of our acknowledgement of the ANZAC tradition and history.”
The nurses all have their very own distinct personalties as we travel with them through their love affairs, personal challenges and grief and they attempt to make sense of the carnage and chaos around them. It would seem a very complex and sensitive piece to work on but Martin has a very strong vision for the play and credits the power of the writing as supplying a strong foundation:” The writing is so clean and strong it could easily be done as a radio play. It so powerful it can stand alone. My challenge was not to overwhelm the text or underestimate its strength and beauty. In bringing it to life I have sought to support it through physical expression that enriches the moments created: the sense of rituals, the military precision of grids and lines, all work in supporting the heart of the women’s experience. These women were amazing and the script fluctuates between descriptive elements to personal experiences. I have worked with the performers to be clear in this form of storytelling and narrative. The abstraction of the set and the minimalist approach regarding any literal reference to props or context is weaved between the delivery of lines and the absorption of the performance in the moment of ‘now’.”
The piece has been well researched says Martin who describes it as deep and passionate and empathic. It was certainly a gruelling time for all because all were uninitiated and had no scope of what to expect once they hit the foreign war torn lands. Says Martin: “That these stories can be shared is, not only important, but integral to our fuller understanding of what the Australian experience of WW1 was. We honour that.”
Alice, played by Helen Hopkins is described as courageous and drawn to adventure. Martin and Hopkins share a past which has enabled them to pursue this project which is part of an exploration series to be presented at La Mama. “I respect Helen’s work as a performer,” states Martin, “and have enjoyed working with her on several projects in the past, and having read the script I was interested in seeing how my approach would work with the poetry and beauty of the writing. My directing is focused on the integration of the physical and emotional so it has been challenging to work with performers who like method or literal approaches to the work. But I have also been blessed with these same performers who are open to this challenge, and we have been able to explore the work and present it in a way that allows the audience the space to create the pictures in their own imagination. The writing is so poetic and it has been a joy to bring it to the physical expression.”
“The play has been developed from the diaries and letters from nurses of World War I and brings heart to our understanding of our history and the Anzac tradition we hold so dear. It is an important aspect of our Australian psyche. It is also contemporary theatre at its best. Dynamic presentation formed from a script of depth and poignancy. Performers with the skill and sensitivity to present a narrative through a vibrant interpretation.”
“ If you enjoy real stories of life experiences, then this production offers you insight and understanding of some amazing women of Australia’s past.”
The Girls In Grey is shortlisted for the National Play Festival and included on the VCE Drama Curriculum for 2012. It opens at Theatre Works St.Kilda on April 25