Chunuk Bair on stage

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By JESS LEE

HEROIC sto­ries from Gal­lipoli are re­turn­ing to the stage af­ter a 25-year ab­sence.

The Auck­land Theatre Com­pany is bring­ing Once on Chunuk Bair to the Maid­ment Theatre in June.

The Mau­rice Shad­bolt play is set be­tween dawn and dusk on Au­gust 8, 1915.

It fol­lows the Welling­ton Bat­tal­ion’s ef­fort to cap­ture the strate­gic peak of Chunuk Bair on Turkey’s Gal­lipoli Penin­sula.

Only 70 of the 760 men who took to the sum­mit re­turned un­harmed.

‘‘These young men headed off to war in good faith to fight for king and coun­try, only to be used as can­non fod­der by their Bri­tish com­man­ders,’’ Auck­land Theatre Com­pany artis­tic di­rec­tor Colin McColl says.

‘‘ Once on Chunuk Bair shows the courage and en­durance of our brave lads, the friend­ships and ca­ma­raderie they had for each other.

‘‘It’s an event that has de­fined the An­zac spirit.’’

Di­rec­tor Ian Mune says it is im­por­tant that people hear the sto­ries.

‘‘This is a part of New Zealand. In amongst the death and de­struc­tion the New Zealan­ders were able to see them­selves as hav­ing their own iden­tity rather than just as mem­bers Em­pire.’’

Mune will lead a cast of 13 ac­tors, in­clud­ing Jordan Mooney, Andrew Grainger and Wes­ley Dowdell with codi­rec­tor Cameron Rhodes.

The late Shad­bolt penned the play af­ter a visit to Chunuk Bair in 1977 and it was Mune who di­rected its first per­for­mance in 1982 at the Mer­cury Theatre.

Mune says it is a de­mand­ing play to per­form with all of the cast re­main­ing on stage through­out.

It was adapted into a fea­ture film in 1991.

of the Bri­tish

Mune hopes the play will have as strong a re­sponse as it did at the time.

‘‘In­ter­est­ingly, around that time in the 1980s there was a resur­gence in in­ter­est around An­zac, whereas when I was 20 people would ask ‘ why are we cel­e­brat­ing war?’ But we can’t for­get the people who gave their lives – war is a ter­ri­ble waste of life.’’

Once on Chunuk Bair runs from June 12 to July 5 at the Maid­ment Theatre, 8 Al­fred St.

Go to atc.co.nz or phone 308 2383 for tick­ets.

Chunuk Bair: Ac­tor Jordan Mooney is one of a cast of 13 bring­ing Mau­rice Shad­bolt’s Once on Chunuk Bair to the stage at the Maid­ment Theatre.

Photo: LAWRENCE SMITH

Tragic story: Ian Mune re­turns to di­rect the poignant pro­duc­tion Once on Chunuk Bair.

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