The Girls in Grey

1 Comment 30 April 2012

It’s a well known phenomenon – school ruins everything. From Shakespeare to quirky systems of government, once school has dragged it under the banner of ‘curriculum’, it takes a miracle to find it interesting again. But although the Theatre Works chairs were unnervingly reminiscent of my school drama studio’s, and the Russians behind me spoke loudly and the floorboards creaked, I came out from watching The Girls in Grey with an uplifting feeling. This play had undone some of the nauseating tedium that school had inflicted upon Word War One.

Created from first-hand accounts in such a way that feels too real to be just a play, The Girls in Grey tells the story of three Australian Army nurses serving during the First World War.

Four actors – Carolyn Bock, Helen Hopkins and Olivia Connolly as nurses and Lee Mason as a soldier – took to the stage and brought to life the story of three very different women, who faced what was then the world’s most catastrophic conflict with both great disbelief and stirring stoicism.

The set was very minimalistic, nothing but some rough, translucent fabric hanging from the roof. There was, essentially, a blank canvas in front of us: the actors not only embodied their characters, but the world they were in. The three nurses had such a command of the stage – squeezing past each other through non-existent narrow hallways, scrubbing hands, stepping over the dead, and bandaging wounded men, who you could almost see – it was hard to imagine that this war was almost a century old.

And then there were the voices. One voice would overlap with the other: Mr and Mrs Johnston, I regret to inform you that… he died in my arms… Ms Brown, I am so sorry but… I was by his side… he was very brave… his last thoughts were of his family. Too many things, too many sad thoughts and painful experiences. This cascade of sounds, a sort of a relentless audio montage, felt like the perfect summation of what the war must have felt like for the nurses.

This play is not revolutionary, it will not change your outlook on the world or make you question your own existence. But The Girls in Grey made interesting something I believed would forever remain dull. By making the lives and experiences of three women matter, this play made Australia’s involvement in World War One important and personal. It is historically apt, stark and most definitely a play not to miss.

The Girls in Grey is running from 25 April – 13 May, at Theatre Works.

Your Comments

1 comment

  1. Charles Lempriere says:

    Great piece Billie! It’s awesome to see you on the team, and this play sounds very interesting.

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