Half a World Apart – July 2017

Half a World Apart

by Julia Stuart

Bringing eastern bays history to life

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Tickets will be available in June.

In the bright days before World War One, the eastern bays were Wellington’s playground. Those who lived, bached and weekended here responded to the influx  of visitors by providing entertainment- socials, dances, concerts and especially drama.

Drawing on the recently published war history Half A World Away, BCTT’s mid-year production is a real community event celebrating this side of eastern bays life. Written by local author Julia Stuart, the play brings to life the various ways that local men and women, in and out of uniform, used to keep their spirits up during the dark days of the Great War.

Beginning with a short excerpt from a deeply politically-incorrect farce put on in the Days Bay Pavilion shortly before war was declared, Half A World Apart  then portrays the range of local talent in a scene set in Samoa rehearsing for the Battery Barn Stormers November 1914 concert in Apia. In Act 2, song and story feature in a scene at Taumaru, the Lowry Bay convalescent hospital. The New Zealand army’s concert party and orchestra, whose war work was to provide light relief for the fighting men was held together by five Eastbourne men, and we see them preparing for the ‘Digger Pierrot Show’ in a  marquee close to Passchendaele as the rain pours and the guns begin to speak.

These four main scenes are linked by vignettes drawing on wartime letters, diaries and logbooks of eastern bays men and women. Local dentist ‘Doc’ Isaacs writes vivid letters from Samoa and Salonika to his drinking buddies back home; Theo Walker described life on Gallipoli to his sweetheart Olive; Muritai School headmaster addresses a special school ‘war’ assembly; Ethel Collinson Smith, widowed with four children, tries to balance the household budget and the Burnett sisters of York Bay keep the New Zealand Soldiers Club and Canteen running in London.

New Zealand popular music of the day is threaded throughout the action, some of the cast sing and there is the opportunity for audience participation in the choruses. The production, coordinated by Florence MacFarlane, is a fitting way to celebrate Butterfly Creek Theatre Troupe’s 30 years of community theatre and to honour the people and families who make up our rich local history.

Dramatis personae, in order of appearance

A large cast is required ( 18M, 12W, 3 Children  6-10) but there is a reasonable flexibility about age with most characters, and as a number of characters appear in only one or two scenes there can be some doubling up.

David Isaacs, an Eastbourne dentist, aged 57 in Act 1, later 29; aged 30 in Act 2

Percy St John Keenan, an Eastbourne engineer, aged 62 in Act 1, later  33 and 36.

Charlie Cimino, a Nelson music teacher, aged 63 in Act 1, 41 in Act 2

Enid Bell,  WREN, later NZ Girl Guides  commissioner, daughter of Francis & Caroline Bell of Lowry Bay, aged 51 in Act 1, 28 in Act 2

Ferdinand Swift  an inventor and man-about-town

Mrs Elizabeth Carte, a descendant of the D’Oyley Cartes.

Sergeant Pat Hanna, an Eastbourne Dramatic Society member and artist, aged 27

Gunner Robert Vial, an Eastbourne resident, aged 22

Corporal Cliff Baker, an Eastbourne resident and pianist, aged 23  (Actor’s ability to play would be a bonus!)

Miss Olive Zealandia Stevenson, fiancée of Gunner Theo Walker

Mrs Jessie Walker, mother of Theo, an Eastbourne resident

Mr Herbert Sanson, headmaster of Muritai School, aged 52

The Hon Francis Bell MP, owner of Taumaru, Lowry Bay, early 60s

Miss Greta Ewen, VAD driver at Taumaru, late 20s

Mrs Iris Rolleston, daughter of Bell, matron of Taumaru, aged 37

2 VADs

2  wounded soldiers

Sister Ethel Barnes, nurse, aged 33

Ethel Burnett, Lady Superintendent of the NZ Soldiers’ Club Canteen in Russell Square, London, post-war resident of York Bay. Aged 37

Alison Atkinson, her sister, newly married to Esmond Atkinson of York Bay, aged 25

Another VAD or maid, any age

Mrs Ethel Collinson Smith, wife of Corporal Smith, mother of 4, in her 30s.

Jimmy Smith, Ethel and Wilfred’s son. Aged 6 -10.

Lieutenant David Kenny, member of the Eastbourne Savage and Social Clubs, leader of the Digger Pierrots, aged 36

2 soldiers

Sapper Theo Trezise, former dancing master Croydon School, aged 25

Mrs Norah Cimino, wife of Charlie, aged about 40

Brenda and Donald Cimino, aged 8 and 5.



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