Inspiring! Is the word to describe the sound of Robyn Arthur, Tracy Bartram, Debra Byrne, Tracey Mann and Wendy Stapleton singing the songs of Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Carole King and Peter, Paul and Mary to the arrangements of Rod Davies. No this isn’t a stage version of “Woodstock”. It’s not another musical in the tradition of “We Will Rock You” or “Mamma Mia” either. This is a touching and emotional dramatisation of a book by Siobhan McHugh entitled Minefields and Miniskirts . Ms McHugh’s book is a collection of interviews with more than fifty women who shared their recollections of their time in Vietnam during the war.
This sensitive adaptation written and directed by Terrence O’Connell trims the cast down to five women representing the female Australian volunteers, journalists, nurses, wives and entertainers who had stories to tell about their Vietnam War experiences.
Through McHugh’s book O’Connell transports us back to a time that is still disturbing to those of us who lived through it. Instead of hearing all the stories of anti-war protests these women tell how they confronted the war face to face. The nurses tending to the wounded Vietnamese civilians as well as the soldiers. The female journalists wanting to write about something more than the afternoon-tea set. The girls that went to entertain the troops, many of them looking for an adventure and a chance to see the world, some not realising the danger they were getting into, and that they were becoming an active part of the war. There are the wives unable to deal with their husband’s trauma when they came home and the volunteers just wanting to help make life better for all those effected by the war.
The play has had an amazing impact on its audience and the performers.
After the performance stories are shared between the actors and the real nurses and entertainers who say, “I was there”. For those of us that weren’t, those incredible songs bring back vivid memories of a time that sadly keeps repeating itself as long as wars persist. “And the seasons, they go round and round�.”( The Circle Game , Joni Mitchell).
This is an amazing piece of original Australian theatre not to be missed.
MINEFIELDS AND MINISKIRTS : World Premiere Production July 14 -31, 2004 – Playbox at the Malthouse, Melbourne Australia
Adapted and directed by Terence O’Connell from Siobhan McHugh’s book;
Produced by Playbox; designer, Catherine Raven; lighting, Phil Lethlean; sound design, Rod Davies; choreographer, Alana Scanlan; costumes, Sunchana Gogic; sound, Russell Goldsmith.
WITH: Robyn Arthur (The Volunteer), Tracy Bartram (The Journalist), Debra Byrne (The Nurse), Tracey Mann (The Vietnam Vet’s Wife), Wendy Stapleton (The Entertainer).
© Henry Sachwald 2004