Friday, 10 December 2021 – 2:45 pm – 3:30 pm at La Mama Forecourt, Carlton
After fire, the War-Rak/Banksia flower comes back stronger and more beautiful than ever, blossoming with colour and life!
Inspired by rebirth, LA MAMA's (Melbourne's home for independent theatre) War-Rak/Banksia Festival from 09 to 12 December 2021 commemorates the return of their iconic home at Faraday Street in Carlton with a free four-day celebration. An open and inclusive festival for everyone! Please join us to mark this joyful occasion, check out La Mama’s new digs and be welcomed home.
Among an array of artistic performances, The Streets of Melbourne made of four visual/musical ‘narratives’ written by Melka Stansah are our contribution to the celebrations.
“You are now entering the free tram zone!
The clock tower bell chimes, the sound of bustling trams breaks the silence…
A graffiti artist sips his fragrant hot coffee, searching for inspiration. The buskers get their instruments out of the boxes, adjust the mics and do their last sound checks.
Another day begins.
What do they see? What do they feel? What inspiration do they get from each corner of Melbourne streets? Or from the eclectic Melbournians?
They will bring their stories to life in this collaborative theatrical production ‘The Streets of Melbourne’.
Get onboard at La Mama’s home at Faraday Street, Carlton, on Friday, 10 December 2021.
You don’t need your Myki. Just grab a seat, relax and enjoy the ride!”
The Streets of Melbourne creative team -
Produced by: WHAM & Melka
Written by: Melka Stansah
Directed by: Wolf Heidecker
Photos/Video/Sound Design: Richard Lyford-Pike
Original music/songs composed and performed by
Buskers: Romanie Assez
Actor: Graham Murray
Graffiti Artist: Sur James Richmond
For further details go to What's On - La Mama Theatre
(see the comprehensive BANKSIA-Festival Program)
At the opening season in Adelaide we received the following review from Kerry Cooper (Stage Whisper):
For our season at Canberra - second week of tour - we have received the following review by Peter Wilkins:
Playwright Bernard Clancy is a Vietnam veteran, whose struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and subsequent capitulation to its devastating effect prompted him to write Foxholes of the Mind. The play is a compelling account of the terrible torment suffered by returned soldiers from the horrors of war. Inspired by Clancy’s insightful and heartfelt account of the impact of this disease, the professional cast deliver a performance that is as sensitive as it is confronting and as thought provoking as it emotionally powerful. War’s consequence is not regaled in glory, but shrouded in physical, emotional and psychological pain. Clancy presents the true effects of war upon the returned servicemen and women. Frank (Peter Finlay) is persuaded to attend a therapy session, conducted by psychologist Mark (Victor Gralak.) The session is also attended by Mario, played by Adrian Mulraney who deftly takes on a jacket and a walking stick to present barrister, Harry, and Ginger Mick. Former nurse, Sheila (Maureen Hartley) joins the group and Mark is assisted by his colleague Nigel (David Lih) a Vietnamese born boat refugee and Afghanistan and Iraq veteran. Clancy cleverly includes the younger as well as older veterans to illustrate the cruel impact of PTSD on all service people. The irony is that many, including Clancy and his central protagonist Frank believe that they have overcome post-traumatic stress disorder, only to succumb to alcoholism, domestic violence and suicide. Clancy draws back the curtain on a disease that, like a cancer, spreads throughout the lives that come in contact with the veteran. Frank’s wife Trish (Joanne Davis), no longer able to cope with Frank’s erratic behaviour and violent outbursts is forced to leave her home and move with her disabled adult son into her daughter’s small apartment. The play moves between the home, the clinic and the occasional flashbacks to the horrific circumstances on the battlefield. Through it all, the complex struggles to survive the ordeal reveal a truth that director Wolf Heidecker neither glorifies nor embellishes. The drama’s authenticity is its most effective communication. Nowhere is this more poignantly revealed than in the final scene between Trish, Frank and Mark. Joanne Davis gives a most heart wrenching performance as she reveals Trish’s suffering and longing for the love of her childhood sweetheart, whom the army trained to kill, dehumanised and then neglected when their active service was done. It is a cruel indictment of an institution and a society that has lost the art of compassion. Bernard Clancy raises the art to its rightful place with Foxholes of the Mind For those who suffered the terrifying ordeal of war, Foxholes of the Mind offers catharsis and an avenue of hope. For those who have lived with the consequences of life and friendship with the returned veteran, Clancy’s revealing drama offers an education in empathy and understanding. Having been performed in Melbourne, Adelaide and Canberra, the national tour moves to Hobart, Newcastle and Brisbane. or those who are able to see Foxholes of the Mind, I recommend the play.
Audience response: Newcastle:
We are extremely grateful to the Australian Government Department of Social Services, which has given us a grant to make this tour possible. Without it there would be no tour, no artistically based initiative to help stop the suicides.
We had hoped to take the play to Queensland, NT and WA as well however we were unsuccessful in obtaining a grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs and so were forced to scale back our plans considerably.
Undeterred though, we re-applied in the next DVA grants round for funding a tour to those states in either 2022 or 2023. Unsuccessfully, again; next option - the government's RISE program established to help the arts industry to recover from the pandemic induced stagnation. The "job" is not complete and like the Army, we don’t do things half-arsed. It would be nice if DVA and its Minister, the Hon. Darren Chester, who have stated in writing that Foxholes is “a very worthwhile initiative”, give us support and lead the charge next time.
Unlike most big productions, this is not a big profit-making venture. This country of ours is bloody big and the costs of covering ground with cast, crew, staging, etc are considerable; and actors and crew etc must be paid (they like to eat too!) but we’ll be happy if we break even (and I won’t even mention the threat of Cov…).
The tour is all about contributing, in an entertaining and educational way, to veterans’ mental health. That’s it.
If you’d like to help in any way, cash or kind, my Director and Producer, Wolf Heidecker, would be delighted to hear from you. Call him on 0413 555 630 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now, going back in time, Foxholes premiered at La Mama Courthouse theatre in 2010 to virtually full houses and toured Victoria to critical acclaim in 2016.
Excerpts from the 2016 show are on YouTube: https://youtu.be/L-PdlG2AtJI
As one of our audience commented back in 2016 ...
"Fabulous play! Everyone should see it to understand what our soldiers go through in order to protect this wonderful country of ours."
Cast: Joanne Davis, Peter Finlay, Adrian Mulraney, Victor Gralac, Maureen Hartley, David Lih
Lighting/Sound Design and technical direction: Richard Lyford-Pike
Stage Manager: Natulie Moffatt
Foxholes premiered at La Mama theatre in Carlton in 2010 to virtually full houses and toured regional Victoria in 2016. It had a profound effect on veterans, first responders, wives and families and was widely acclaimed by critics and audiences alike.
Playwright Bernard Clancy, a Vietnam veteran, says: “I’m very excited to see Foxholes go national. It’s a terrific opportunity to highlight PTSD and just how damaging it can be to our community, particularly our defenders and first responders. I’m extremely grateful to the Australian Government Department of Social Services for supporting this community initiative.
“I originally wrote Foxholes because I wanted to highlight the tragedy of PTSD, to try to stop the terrible waste and destruction of the human spirit that PTSD entails.
“Much is being done to try to counter PTSD, not only in the military sense, but also for first responders who deal with trauma, sometimes extreme, on a regular basis.
“Foxholes is a non-clinical story about how a family, and its extended contacts and friends, are affected by PTSD. It shows how it can be identified and managed; it’s about caring for those who come home from conflict, in our name, with wounds of the mind.
“If the play prompts just one veteran, police member, nurse, firey or ambo with PTSD to seek help, then I’ll be very happy indeed.”
The play will be directed again by Wolf Heidecker. His production company, WHAM, is the producer on behalf of the Geelong Sub-Branch of the Vietnam Veterans’ Association of Australia, of which Bernard is a Vice President; Auspice/Insurance by Auspicious Arts Projects Inc.
Bernard Clancy is also the author of the acclaimed Vietnam war novel Best We Forget and the comedy The Zipper…
OPENING NIGHT REVIEW by Colin Mockett/Entertainment Geelong
Foxholes of the Mind by Bernard Clancy
directed by Wolf Heidecker for Larrikin Etc
Potato Shed, August 9, 2016
This powerful play premiered at Melbourne’s La Mama in November 2010. Following a successful season - one of that venue’s best for the year - it’s author, Bernard Clancy, withdrew the work for a substantial re-write.This Potato Shed performance was the premier of that revised work. It had essentially the same cast, with just one change, but with a new additional character that allowed the plotline to take fresh new directions.
Essentially, Foxholes of the Mind explores the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) especially in those Australian soldiers who returned from the 1970s Vietnam War. They’re in their 70s now, and many are still unknowingly suffering the effects.
This play explored those effects, and causes, with raw honesty studded with darkly caustic humour.
Director Wolf Heidecker moved the action from real life to therapy session to re-lived memories, instantly and seamlessly, by using a continuous scene-flow over a simple, minimally-dressed set. And the play’s two-hour, no-interval format worked to build both understanding and tension to a low-key, believable, moving ending of quiet optimism.
A remarkable feature of Foxholes of the Mind is that after every performance the audience is invited to remain seated for a question and answer session with cast, director and author.
It was as a result of these sessions that author Clancy decided on the present rewrite, and there’s every possibility that current audience reactions may trigger more on-stage responses. Foxholes of the Mind is essentially a work in progress, and therapy for the author, whose own service in Saigon left him with undiagnosed PTSD.
His newly introduced character, Nigel, a young trainee therapist of Vietnamese-Australian descent, expanded the plot into xenophobic territory. But when it turned out that he, too, was an ex-Digger, a veteran of the Afghan war and also suffering PTSD, the storyline exploded into several more unseen, but oh-so-relevant complexities.
Prominent among the play’s audience after-show responses were, ‘Why are we still sending our young men to fight in these conflicts?’ and ‘Why do we not seem to learn from past experience?’
But that’s moving too far ahead. Foxholes of the Mind is based around the break-up of a dysfunctional marriage between childhood sweethearts Frank (Peter Finlay) and Trish (Joanne Davis) who had wed after Frank’s return from national service in Vietnam.
She - and their children - had learned to endure his drinking and erratic, hostile and violent behaviour until she moved out of the family home, triggering his PTSD diagnosis and subsequent group-therapy sessions. There he met Victor Gralak’s knowledgable psychologist Mark and his assistant, the aforementioned Nigel, played by David Lih.
Also on the treatment course were three other ex-Viet Vets, all played by Adrian Mulraney, and a surprise inclusion, Maureen Hartley’s ex-nurse, Sheila.
Every one of these truly difficult characters was finely drawn and believably portrayed, with Peter Finley and Joanne Davis excellent in their central roles and Adrian Mulroney’s depiction of three different and contrasting characters simply outstanding.
But for all of its eye-catching acting and staging skills, the most memorable thing about Foxholes of the Mind was the sheer power of its writing.
This was evident by the depth, length and quality of that after-play discussion - and the fact that every audience member remained behind to be part of it. A telling thread from that audience response was that Foxholes of the Mind will undoubtably leave a lasting impression on every one who was there to see it. I urge you to take the opportunity to go and experience Foxholes of the Mind. It’s a production of power and eloquence - and it’s probably the most potent anti-war play that I have seen. Ever.
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