Kerikeri Theatre Company will mark Anzac Day and 100 years since the end of World War I with a play about a New Zealand family's experience of ''the war to end all wars''.

Billy Goes to War was written by Kerikeri man David Crewe in 2014 when he was living on Australia's Sunshine Coast.

He has since rewritten the play to place it in a New Zealand context, and worked in elements of a diary written by a stretcher bearer whose descendants live in Kerikeri.

Actors in the upcoming play Billy Goes to War, about a New Zealand family's experience of
Actors in the upcoming play Billy Goes to War, about a New Zealand family's experience of "the war to end all wars", try out their World War I uniforms. Photo / Supplied

The play centres around the Smith brothers, Billy and Tom, and the family left behind as the boys go to war.

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It follows the brothers as they are sent to fight in the desert, at Gallipoli and on the Western Front before ending up at a casualty station on the Greek island of Lemnos, where one of the nurses is their aunt Olive.

Mr Crewe said the play had a cast of 50, ranging in age from 6 to 75 and from as far away as Mangonui, Taupo Bay and Kaikohe.

Some had acted in previous Kerikeri Theatre Company productions but many had never been on stage before or last performed when they were at school 40 years earlier.

Willi Henley of Kaikohe tries a World War I soldier's uniform for size ahead of this month's performances of Billy Goes to War, a play about a NZ family's experience of ''the war to end all wars''.
Willi Henley of Kaikohe tries a World War I soldier's uniform for size ahead of this month's performances of Billy Goes to War, a play about a NZ family's experience of ''the war to end all wars''.

The company had hired authentic World War I uniforms while the Kerikeri Men's Shed had made replica Lee Enfield rifles.

The Ode to Remembrance in the finale would be spoken by Vietnam veteran Bill Godfrey, who had been to every rehearsal to instruct the actors in army drills.

''We've had tremendous support from the community,'' Mr Crewe said.

A live band, made up of adult musicians and local high school students, would perform songs of the era.

Mr Crewe said he was fascinated by the story of World War I.

''I've always been moved by the massive sacrifices of all countries involved, the millions of lives that were lost and the folly of it all,'' he said.

For New Zealand and Australian audiences he believed the story of Gallipoli in particular had to be told, along with the reasons Germany brought Turkey into the war.

''World War I and Gallipoli are major areas of study for our schoolchildren, but this play brings the story to life in a way it wouldn't in the classroom.

''When we did it in Australia people were completely overwhelmed by the story and the emotional content,'' he said.

Mr Crewe worked as a journalist and owned a Public Relations company in the UK before retiring to the Sunshine Coast and starting to write for the theatre.

He wrote seven pantomimes in Australia, all of which were performed. He moved to Kerikeri with his wife Helen two years ago.

Mr Crewe also wrote the courtroom comedy-drama The Trial of Dr Millicent Malville which was inspired by his years as a court reporter in London and performed at the Turner Centre earlier this year.

Billy Goes to War will be performed at the Turner Centre in Kerikeri at 7.30pm on April 20-22, along with a 2pm show on April 21. Call in to the box office or go to www.turnercentre.co.nz for ticket information.