It's not often live drama includes more than a handful of actors - even rarer to see a whole cast on stage for long.
But in this superb Auckland Theatre Company production, twelve angry men fill the stage with presence and charisma, increasing the under-fire excitement of a battlefield tragedy.
Common mythology has it that New Zealand's nationhood came of age in Gallipoli, and Maurice Shadbolt's wonderful, knowledgeable, surprisingly subtle 1982 homage to those who fought on Chunuk Bair examines why. His "Fern Leaves" spend far more vitriol on the British officers "feeding" them to the Turks than they spend on the supposed enemy.
For the play, it's immaterial that twelve times more Britons than New Zealanders died at Gallipoli; far more British were landed and it was "their war". But, as a post-Springbok Tour work, the play also delicately questions the value of any sort of patriotism, as nationalism papers over political differences between fellow countrymen.
Some suspension of disbelief is required as officers gasbag on global geopolitics while over the sandbags lurks immediate death - and occasionally men tell each other things they already know - but the coarse soldierly banter and bicker within the familiar battle story arc is natural, easy and real.
Directors Ian Mune and Cameron Rhodes are to be congratulated for deploying their men so skilfully, swinging between tableaux and action in interesting rhythms across John Verryt's hill set strewn with corpses.
The angles and obstacles look lethal to shins, and hold up men in a hurry, in a simulation of the real terrain problems.
While voices occasionally need to be louder and a tad slower, the whole cast is excellent, including first-rate old hands Stephen Lovatt, Andrew Grainger and Taungaroa Emile.
In brilliant company, Kevin Keys stands out, making it clear why his popular Sergeant Frank receives respect and affection from all ranks.
Jason Smith's sound is a worthy focus of the show. This is war: the shits and sedition.
What: Once on Chunuk Bair
Where: Maidment Theatre, until July