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 qtheatre.co.nz and maritimemuseum.co.nz for more information.