Bill Massey’s Tourists

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7 September, Arts on Tour, CHB Municipal Theatre

What follows is a very personal response to a very personal piece of theatre. Jan Bolwell has written and performs this piece based on her grandfather’s war stories. It is being toured through New Zealand by Arts on Tour. It was reviewed for us by Mary Kippenberger who peppers her response with quotes from the play.

“No one wins in war. We all lost.”

Jan Bolwell I take off all of my hats to you and yours. I take all my hats off to your vision, your characters, your song, your dance, your humour, your empathy, your wisdom, and your skill. Your grandfather’s war climbed right off that stage and demanded that we listen, that we hear, that we feel. Futility holding hands with humanity, humanity holding hands with inhumanity.

“Would you die for your country?”

This beautifully crafted, collaborative production, on a basic level, brought home the stark realities of war. The senseless waste, the personal triumphs and tragedies.

“We were sold a story and we all bought it, hook line and sinker.”

But for me its power lay in personal reflection and regret. My father and mother died with their stories mostly untold. They didn’t tell, we didn’t ask. My grandfather was a military man and died from shrapnel to the brain. He was 60. I was four years old and I have no memories of him. I would have liked a grandfather. I think he would have liked it too.

Jan Bolwell is a playwright, performer, choreographer and director of Wellington’s Crows Feet Dance Collective. Collaborating with director Kerryn Palmer, composer, Laughton Pattrick, set and costume designer, Andrew Simpson, Lighting design, Janis Cheng and technician, Neal Barber, Jan has brought to our Waipawa stage a One Woman tour de force.

I am glad to have met Jan’s grandfather. I wish things had been different for him, his friends, their families. I wish I wasn’t fearful for my children, my grandchildren and the great grandchildren I will never meet. I wish we had a choice about this next war. I wish there was somewhere to hide. I wish I could feel relieved and somewhat smug that I grow vegetables and live in New Zealand. Maybe we should do something about it. Maybe we should all just get along. A global, collaborative performance of justice and equitable sharing, starting in our own backyards. It’s not rocket science is it?

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