Monday, 4 May 2015

'The First', Anzac Day

To better enjoy the photos, please click on them to increase their size

It is now Monday 4th May, nearly 2 weeks after I wrote this post.
I was waiting to receive a photo of the full cast of 'The First', but it still hasn't arrived, so I have decided to post without it.
One day later it arrived. Ugh!

Wednesday 22nd April

This week I was unable to join my friends on their 11 km Anzac walk in Brisbane, led by our wonderful Brisbane City Council Greeter, Margot.

This is the link to Laurel's blog recounting the day.

My absence was due to being involved in the Beenleigh Theatre Group production of a play,
 'The First', written by local returned serviceman and history teacher, Phil Buttergig. He wanted to create a play to make young people more aware of the Anzacs and all the elements of war.

Phillip Buttigieg's writer's notes from the 'The First' programme.
'The First' stems from my long held passion for Ted Eagan's wonderful music CD, The Anzacs and my wanting to find a special way for the Beenleigh RSL and community to pay worthy tribute to our fallen, during the Centenary of Anzac.

Ted's inspiring songs tell of the great 1st AIF campaigns and his personal war time experiences. I found however, that many Queensland Irish-Catholic families had endured similar experiences and reasoned that a local play about one of them, could be that significant tribute needed.

To represent the Queensland family, I chose to create The Buckley family and set them on the land near Gympie. From here the boys could easily join either the Light Horse or 9th Battalion in Brisbane. The issue of whether Australia's Irish boys should go off fighting for 'Mother England' had to be a cornerstone of the play, for its educational fact and drama and to link with concerns for getting enough soldiers to the front.

To provide appeal to local young and old audiences alike, the Buckley story unfolds in the home of a modern Beenleigh student charged with having to research the war. In doing so she learns much more than she expected.

Working with Phil Buttigeig, our producer, stage manager and musical producer were able to create 'The First'  through a combination of video projections, choral work and scenes set in 1915 on the  farm at Gympie and in the trenches of Gallipoli and in the home of a 2015 Beenleigh student.

This the promotional video that was filmed several weeks ago.

My role was as a member of the BTG choir. We stood to the side front of stage and each of our songs linked  the dialogue, settings and allowed time for set changes.

There were 9 performances. On this particular Wednesday, 2 runs for year 9 high school students were performed. It was extremely rewarding to watch this age group, [14 year olds] gradually become immersed in the story unfolding on stage and reacting with both laughter and tears. BTG received an e-mail from a teacher of one school, thanking them for the invitation and bemoaning the fact that 'The First" had taught her class in 2 hours, what she had been trying to impart all term.
Another bonus for the students was that 95% of them had never seen live theatre and in fact, the local students were unaware that our theatre existed. It would be wonderful if even only a few made a return visit. Our next show is 'Beauty and the Beast'.

All shows were to near full houses and received high acclaim. Again it was special to watch the ever changing emotions of the audience, from our choir position.

A clip from our local paper.

And from the plays writer.
Dear Production Team, Cast, Choir & Crew of The FIRST,
On behalf of the Beenleigh & Districts RSL Sub-branch I also wish to extend
appreciation for your hard work and the heart rendering show you have
produced on our behalf for the Beenleigh community. I too have received some
very positive comments from the public. Thank you one and all.
Phil Buttigieg
Anzac Activities Co-ord.
Beenleigh & Districts RSL Sub-branch
Our final 2 shows were on Anzac Day and the performance of the cast, lifted to a higher level. 
I usually attend the Dawn service, but decided that with the busy day ahead, I would just appreciate the events shown on TV. Beenleigh RSL had however,organised a Dungaree march of school students to represent the historical march of WW1. I had been unable to find any timetable, so at about 9.45am I went for a drive and found them leaving the Historical Village on their final leg to join the returned soldiers for the official Anzac Day march. 

The Dungarees were answering a call for troops from Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes following the shocking loss of life and casualty count from Gallipoli. Patriotic marches were probably one of the most spectacular and successful ways of attracting young men into the services. Potential recruits were canvassed from towns and rural communities. The south-east Queensland march, left Warwick on November 16. The Dungaree march made its way through Allora, Clifton, Greenmount, Cambooya, Toowoomba, Helidon, Gatton, Laidley, Rosewood, Ipswich and Oxley. The 270 kilometre march ended in Brisbane, with 125 young men arriving to a tumultuous civic reception.

It was very special and emotional to be a part of 'The First' and Beenleigh's acknowledgement  of 100 years of The Anzacs. A time to be ever thankful for the lives lost and changed when they answered the call to serve our country.
Lest we forget.


  1. Thanks for sharing this...

  2. How cool to be part of such an important production.

  3. What an absolutely wonderful experience! I have been doing a lot of war reading recently, having read all Elizabeth Darrell's books on Kindle Unlimited starting with "Going down with the sun". I was not at all interested in history at school and I was thinking that it would be better to suggest young people read these romanticised but very accurate versions of what happened during the two world wars. I can imagine how well "The First" would have helped students understand events that seem so remote today. Thank you for your post.

    1. Following the show that my husband and neighbours attended, we all agreed that the DVD filmed of the show should be offered to schools. So much discussion could be generated from each scene.