Short­land Street ac­tress re­turns to war


Donogh Rees is hon­our­ing the ‘‘well over­due’’ fe­male per­spec­tives of war.

The Grey Lynn ac­tress is per­form­ing the lead role in Sis­ter An­zac, a play cel­e­brat­ing the un­sung fe­male heroes who went to war.

Best known for her role as di­rec­tor of nurs­ing Judy Brown­lee in Short­land Street, Ress plays the role of Ma­tron on a World War I hos­pi­tal ship.

Writ­ten by Geoff Allen the play had a suc­cess­ful first sea­son in 2014 which also in­volved Rees.

She says the pro­duc­tion has been an in­cred­i­bly mov­ing process.

‘‘Th­ese sto­ries, it’s in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant they come out and it’s in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant for peo­ple to re­alise what a force they [fe­males] were within the war,’’ Rees says.

A ma­jor ob­sta­cle of the role has been un­der­stand­ing the ‘‘enor­mity’’ of what the nurses in­volved went through.

‘‘They were ar­riv­ing on their ship know­ing there was 30,000 wounded on that shore and so they were in­cred­i­bly over­whelmed by the sheer num­bers and the state they were in,’’ she says.

‘‘The chal­lenge has been ser­vic­ing those sto­ries and un­der­stand­ing on a very deep level of what it was like to go through the shock, the chal­lenge and the fear of get­ting through that.’’

As huge amount of re­search has gone into the role, Rees says.

‘‘I guess it’s like any role you take, you want to hon­our the story and you want to hon­our the per­son you’re play­ing even if they are, in my case, a fic­ti­tious char­ac­ter.’’ Rees says when they last per­formed an el­derly man at­tended whose par­ents met through their in­volve­ment at war.

‘‘He knew it was a part of their his­tory but he knew noth­ing about what they’d gone though...he was weep­ing and said it was like a win­dow into their life.’’

De­spite not be­ing well re­ceived ini­tially, New Zealand nurses were very pop­u­lar with sol­diers.

‘‘They were in­cred­i­bly warm and they weren’t stuck in that class sys­tem of ‘I can’t move out­side the square’.’’

Sis­ter An­zac per­forms at the Q Theatre’s Loft from Au­gust 23 to 28. It also runs as a special prom­e­nade per­for­mance in the Auck­land Mar­itime Mu­seum from Au­gust 31 to Septem­ber 10.

In this per­for­mance the au­di­ence sits breath­tak­ingly close to the ac­tion as the mu­seum’s set­ting is utilised to cre­ate an au­then­tic at­mos­phere, Rees says.

‘‘Fi­nally the women’s sto­ries are com­ing out….. it’s ter­ri­bly ex­cit­ing, they suf­fered the same thing as the men com­ing back from war to a de­gree in that no­body talked much about it.’’

Visit qthe­ and mar­itimemu­ for more in­for­ma­tion.

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