Thursday, 6 October 2016

Long Tan (the play)

It's the season when theatre companies release their programs for the coming year,'s the moment to wave the flag a little.

Hence, here I am giving some forward notice for the upcoming Brink Productions season of Long Tan, a semi-verbatim piece I've been working on since late 2013. This was a production that looked like being scuppered after the arts funding imbroglio in 2015 and then, in one of those paradoxical turns of events, with quick response by the SA State Arts Ministry and generosity of other arts bodies (in this case, the State Theatre Company of South Australia and the Adelaide Festival Centre Trust both providing an umbrella for the show), and, yes, some funding from the new-born Catalyst Fund, it has been re-born, with perhaps a few more bells on it than might otherwise have been possible.

This is a piece very close to my heart. I've been researching and talking to an expanding range of Australian veterans, Vietnamese civilians and military people, family members of both and other people with insight into that war, those times, and the battle itself. It is such a loaded scenario that I expect there is no way I can please everybody, but...let's just take a deep breath and see what happens, I guess.

The play is not a conventional 'military history' or even straight verbatim record of events. The protagonist is D Company, 6RAR itself, and its 'enemy', the whole group of very young men, conscripts and regulars, Australian and Vietnamese, thrust into a situation of the kind of extremity most of us will simply never experience. Memory gets tricky at such times. There's no one 'true' story, though there is a (more-or-less) agreed sequence of events. Inevitably that, too, becomes part of the story.

This last August a previous play of mine, The Red Cross Letters, was produced by the State Theatre Company of South Australia. This was a record of the correspondence between the South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau and the families of lost soldiers in World War One. It was a complicated one, too, though less complicated than Long Tan. But it seemed to hit the spot, to get the tone right, to meet the needs of its audience.

Here's to the next one! Verity

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