Drama students work on theatre piece

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In war costume regalia and with an authentic army bell tent behind them are Big Little Theatre Company students (from left) Arlo Bruce, Laura Hyde, Zoe Ritchie, Callum Tait and Felix Bruce.

Talented young thespians have been busy devising their own piece of theatre centred around war time experiences.

Big Little Theatre Company (BLTC) director Jackie Heffernan has used her annual summer theatre school to work with 22 students on a work inspired by recollections, poetry, archive material and song.

The young actors and writers are aged between seven and 19 and will take the show on the road in April.

Jackie Heffernan said the results of research and creativity far exceeded her expectations.

“Our show name is Element of Risk’, which which sums up beautifully the war time experiences of those we have looked at, as well as the history of the period.”

She said many young conscripts had no idea what was in store for them and many of the “boys” sent to fight had no idea that they might never return home.

“The ability of our young people to empathise with the lives of those born way before their time is just outstanding,” she said.

Work on the theatre piece will continue next term and it will be staged locally prior to Anzac Day commemorations.

It is set in a village hall and will be performed in those very halls, Mrs Heffernan said.

“We are very grateful for the amazing support and expertise of Hamish Bruce from Staveley, who inspired our students with a selection of his amazing collection of World War 1 and World War 2 original artefacts bullet hole spattered tin hat worn by one very unfortunate soldier in battle,” Mrs Heffernan said.

She said performers promised the district a piece of theatre worthy of the patronage of our town and district and hoped that people would come to see and hear them pay respects to those who fought and died for us all.

The show will be an immersive experience, complete with rationed food and drink and air raid drills.

It will feature song and dance and the sort of entertainment that kept those left behind from the thoughts of war and those fighting it.

The theatre group has been supported with funding from the Creative Communities Scheme and Ashburton District Council.

The first show will be in front of an invited audience on April 21, followed by two shows at venues to be confirmed and a final show at the Ashburton Trust Event Centre on April 24.

-By Mick Jensen