ANZAC play told through young eyes

UNDER THE LIGHTS: Actor Ruby Hansen as Maia in Anzac Eve.

High school students immersed in the performing arts will examine one of New Zealand’s most significant battles with an award-winning playwright.

With Anzac Day around the corner, playwright Dave Armstrong will host a one-off workshop with about 15 students from across the city studying a play focusing on the Gallipoli campaign.

Students involved in The Court Theatre’s youth programmes will study Armstrong’s play Anzac Eve with the playwright. It delves into young New Zealanders’ views on the Gallipoli commemorations.

As well as a playwright, Armstrong is a screenwriter, trumpet player and columnist who has had work feature on stage, radio and television.

Anzac Eve is a modern-day comedy telling the story of four opinionated young adults who meet the night before the dawn commemorations at Gallipoli.

As well as focusing on the historic material in the show, students will study key techniques behind acting.

“We will also have a chance to talk about acting and how our actors perform a role and digest all this information and turn it into a play,” Armstrong said.

He said he wrote the play because he felt the country needed to look at Anzac Day through different viewpoints and was interested to know what it meant to younger people.

“When I was growing up in the 1970s, I didn’t want to know about it basically. There was the Vietnam War on. The people I knew were very anti-military and I had little interest in Anzac Day,” he said.

But with both of his grandfathers taking part in World War 1 and Armstrong joining a military band, he said he soon became interested.

His maternal grandfather, Albert Turner, was wounded during the Battle of the Somme, while his paternal grandfather, John Armstrong, was wounded in the leg.

“It was a massive thing on both sides of the family . . . one grandfather limped for the rest of his life and died quite young. The other had a chest wound and coughed every winter,” he said.

Armstrong said Anzac Eve looks at why the country chooses to commemorate the war and what young New Zealanders were doing there in the first place.

“I think it is time to start saying what the hell were we doing there, why were we there, why did such terrible defeats occur, how did we lose so many and are we in danger of this happening again?”

More than 2700 New Zealanders died in the Gallipoli campaign.

Armstrong said he feels some facts in war history have been “glossed over,” including how many French died in Gallipoli and how Maori soldiers were treated.

•A professional performance of Anzac Eve takes place today at 8pm at the Gloucester Room, Isaac Theatre Royal. To book tickets, visit

ON STAGE: Actor Trae Te Wiki as Lizzie in playwright Dave Armstrong’s play Anzac Eve.