I love war stories. I love ANZAC Day. Not for the glorification of war, not because of patriotic altruism. I think war is one of the great examples of tragedy. There are always more losses than gains in war – and it’s psychological effect on people lasts long after the battles.

My grandfather was a veteran of the second world war and I remember him at this time of year. I think of how little he forgave himself for his actions during that time. I think of the sacrifices he made. I think of my grandmother waiting for his homecoming. I think of the phrase “we were civilians in uniforms” that he used to say to me. I think about how unprepared he felt, going from being a dairy farmer to being a signals officer in the army. I think of how year after year, when he marched in the ANZAC parade there would be less and less veterans, knowing full well that one day, he too would be gone.

Breaker Morant, the Bruce Beresford film is one of my favourites – I watch it in times of need. I love it’s simple, clear storytelling. I love the David and Goliath battle. What can I say? I love cheering for the underdog.

I’m not going to talk about the story so much. After all you can check out the Seymour Centre website:

I want to talk about courage and what a hero is.

Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

On opening night of this production I sat in the front row of the theatre (not my preference it was assigned seating- I think if I was an actor, seeing a reviewer/blogger/producer/director in the front row would be very distracting). I sat in warm awe as the men filled onto stage in their leather spats and woollen uniforms. I had heard that some of the cast were ex-army, some making their stage debut. An awesome concept… and which I believe harks back to the origins of theatre – story telling about your community, for your community. I had thrown all the coins jingling around inside my handbag into the Legacy bucket – so I had no coins for the program to tell me who was actor and who was army. It didn’t matter.

From my seat I could see the wavering hands of the actors as they wrote in their books, I could see the sweat on their brow, a tremble in some voices – opening night nerves. I saw some lumpy lighting cues switch between states, some near-miss collisions due to miss-timed blocking and then a line fumble or two.

At that moment my stomach clenched and I held my breath. I felt this absolute flood of tension, anticipation, fear. I felt shame. And I closed my eyes and hoped for a recovery. Silence. Someone in the audience gave nervous laugh. I was completely clenched. Not for my own sake – but everything in me wanted those actors to succeed – to recovery, to carry on.

It’s one thing to sail through your whole life, being cautious, being overly prepared, never risking and therefore never making a mistake. It is another thing to be the person who faces the crowd, stands up, starts again when it all falls apart.

And in that moment of eyes-closed hoping and willing I understood two things –
1. I am an optimist: no matter how bad something seems, I always think it will get better, and they do.
2. I understood just the scale of terror people who fight in wars face – if this pressure of theatre is enough to make grown men (professional actors) tremble, what would have it been like to be fighting in a war, with limited resources and the threat of being killed.

So for me, judging a show on a bit of unpreparedness on one particular night isn’t really fair…and I think it’s good to remember that all shows grow and change throughout the run – they wax and wane.

This is not a flawless production. Not at all. It is, just as a courtroom is (or a military battalion) a functional piece of theatre. A highly structured piece of writing with a story which shows the inevitable.

I always say that opening night is the night that you realise just how many people in your community care about your work – they care enough to turn up, to offer congratulations when it’s good, they offer consolation if things don run according to plan. They offer stories of their own failings, buy you another drink, give you a hug and camaraderie is born.

Just like that in other jobs, stressful situations. It is when you are tested that you know your own strength or ability – and you know who are your allies.

I remain in support of this production. I believe that Breaker Morant is a story which we all need – to remind ourselves about being optimistic, the power of enthusiasm, the value of friendship and camaraderie, the lessons of war/power and corruption.

And most importantly, to ask the question “what is courage?”