Gallipoli recalled in Plimmerton
It doesn’t matter how many times Paulette McIndoe reads the scenes, or has them read by actors, she still gets goosebumps.
McIndoe is the director of Mana Little Theatre’s latest production, Once on Chunuk Bair, set on one day during the famous battle in Gallipoli in 1915.
She said the rehearsals had had an effect on her.
‘‘ When you think about how many of these soldiers became casualties in this battle, they were like lambs to the slaughter,’’ she said. ‘‘It never fails to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.’’
The play runs at Mana Little Theatre in Plimmerton from April 15 till 25.
It is McIndoe’s directorial debut and with assistance from dozens of volunteers and a largely Porirua cast, she is confident it will be a hit.
‘‘ It’s been wonderful. I’m so lucky to have the best lighting, sound and costume people, not to mention these 12 brilliant men who will take to the stage.
‘‘ Everyone is so passionate about putting on this production.
‘‘It’s particularly poignant as we come to 100 years since Gallipoli and while this play is not a happy one, it’s a story that has to be told. I’m hoping for a strong audience reaction.’’
Once on Chunuk Bair is celebrated New Zealand writer Maurice Shadbolt’s only published play. It was published in 1982 and later made into a movie.
The play takes place on August 8, 1915, and tells the story of a group of soldiers from the Wellington Battalion trying desperately to hold a key peak on the Gallipoli peninsula.
It confronts the horrific realities of war, but in true New Zealand style with humour and doggedness, McIndoe said.
Tragedy, heroism and heartbreak abound – of the 760 men who reached the summit, 711 were wounded or killed.
‘‘They’ve taken the summit and are waiting for the British to back them, but it’s fair to say it all turns to custard.
‘‘You learn their hopes and fears – from the colonel who’s roughly based on [battalion commander] Lieutenant- Colonel William Malone, to the shiny new lieutenant, to the sergeant who’s been around the block.
‘‘ They quickly realised they were all doomed.’’
In the production Bruce Cannell plays the colonel, and his two sons, Jacob and Baxter, will join him on stage.
To ensure authenticity, real World War I rifles, ammo boxes and uniforms were sourced from a private armourer and through the generosity of staff at Trentham Military Camp and Wrights Hill, McIndoe said.
Costume expert Sue Miller was pivotal to the production, she said.
For McIndoe personally, it’s an important play.
‘‘My grandfather was a pilot in World War II and for my grandmother, Anzac Day was her holy day.’’
Plimmerton historian Allan Dodson will set up a display in Mana Little Theatre’s foyer, telling the stories of Porirua soldiers who served in World War I.
Aside from April 19, when there is a 3pm matinee, all the performances will be at 8pm. Bookings are essential.
Phone 233 2235 or email mlt tickets@ gmail. com and leave a message.