Performing Maurice Shadbolt's classic Gallipoli play, 'Once on Chunuk Bair', at the Air Force Museum of New Zealand in Christchurch. 29 July - 8 August 2015.
This production of Maurice Shadbolt’s play, directed by Martin Howells, is timed to play on the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Chunuk Bair.
On 8 August 1915, after four months in Gallipoli, beset by heat, hunger and lice, men from the New Zealand Expeditionary Force capture Chunuk Bair, a strategic hill above Gallipoli Bay. Over the peak, are the retreating Turks and a magnificent view of the Dardanelles. These young colonials have come from afar to do their duty for the Empire, but are by now disillusioned by the British lack of organisation. Unsupported, they are unable to hold the hill. The battle becomes personal; no longer do they fight for Empire but for themselves and each other, to the last.
A story of courage, compassion and gritty humour.
Shadbolt interprets this episode of the war as a defining moment in the birth of New Zealand as a nation. It stands as a timely reminder of the costs of war and of joining another country’s conflict.
Review of Once On Chunuk Bair
The following independent review comes from playwright Kathleen Gallagher, dated 5 August 2015.
This is a stunning, subtle and eloquently directed production of Maurice Shadbolt's masterpiece on war and peace.
It was amazing being in the Airforce Musem with all the old WWII planes around us and stark set of Chunuk Bar silhouetted against the back wall by Joe Hayes. We felt as if we were literally on the battlefield with the NZ soldiers of the Wellington division 100 years ago.
Martin Howells in his direction and Maurice Shadbolt in his writing show us clearly and lucidly that war is about killing other living breathing human beings and that war is about destruction and devastation of environment, no matter what clothes you are wearing or who is telling you to do what.
The casting immaculate, the actors are playful, witty, sad, heart stopping, and their timing is impeccable. The diverse actors – old, young, weak, strong, Maori, Pakeha Irish, Pakeha English, pathetic, prayerful, hopeful, despairing – are each of them potent in their own way.It becomes clear in the course of the action who New Zealanders – as opposed to Britons – are, and how it was that at Chunuk Bar and Gallipoli, New Zealand became a c20th nation in her own right, in the same way and at the same time and place that Turkey did.
This play gives us an intimate understanding of who we are. It should be filmed and played at Gallipoli for ANZAC Day 2016.
This production plays at the Air Force Museum of New Zealand, Wigram, until Saturday August 8th. Bookings at www.eventfinda.co.nz. Door sales also available.