Review
Keep the Home Fires Burning
Written by Alan Cruise-Johnston, Cass Alexander, and Scott Taylor-Moore
Directed by Beverley Pearce, Ashlyn Morris, and Phil Portland
Whanganui Repertory Theatre

Keep The Home Fires Burning

is a trio of one-act plays, running from Anzac Day through the weekend at Rep Theatre.

This treble is Triple A+ with exceptional writing, a rare connect of character and personality in the acting, a next-level video wall, simplicity of settings for emotions and questions on war and loss, and three short stories across the narrative spectrum. It made for very interesting theatre, indeed.

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First-up was Alan Cruise-Johnston's beautifully rendered biography of Ettie Rout, the true story of a safe-sex campaigner and international madame.

Beverley Pierce gently portrayed the determined lady who reined in the British Empire's armies' mortality rate to the clap and cleaned-up the brothels of Cairo, London and Paris during World War I.

Old Soldier recounts his time meeting Ettie as a young man fresh of the train ready for the Western Front. Whetu plays him with the elegance of a proper and dignified Victorian era that the Old Soldier was born in. A sideslip in time rounded out the act.

Whetu and Pearce worked together a transfixing story with aplomb and style, and Pearce, as director, would be very pleased how Ettie Rout was presented.

At the finish, Colin Milne provided a background of Ettie Rout and recited an Anzac poem by Gillian Cruise-Johnston.

A natty second act by Cass Alexander has a big sister and her brother's new girlfriend in The Lost Generation.

A good as place as any to question how young men and women can volunteer for war is a war cemetery where Shauna, played by Meynell Smith, and Ginette (Jessica Alder) ponder the logic of dying for king and country.

Director Ashlyn Morris got Smith's Shauna to be an innocent voice for youth against war, and that if there were no war we can just all get along.

Towards the end of the play, Shauna gets Ginette to loosen up. Touché! Smith and Alder get a new BFF thing going on while Alexander can make a commentary on the legitimacy of war.

The Dug-Out was the big push on emotion for act three with a charged homo-eroticism and valiant bravery of Wold War I trenches in Scott Taylor-Moore's homage to Siegfried Sassoon.

Led off with a sermon, jingoism and marching songs, Sam Julian is Siegfried whilst Harrison Hodder-Williams is his chum David Thomas. Both play it as unrequited and repressed love and desire in the middle of a war-zone.

Direct Phil Portland worked a big cast around the stage, and wrung the emotional element to the max. Mission accomplished.

Wanganui Repertory Theatre has a set of pocket-sized hits with Keep The Home Fires Burning.

— Aaron Potaka
Upcoming performances Friday, April 27, and Saturday, April 28, at 7.30pm, and Sunday, April 29, at 2pm.