Play brings Australian war nurses’ stories to life

HEADED FOR MANILDRA: Through These Lines writer Cheryl Ward (right) who plays Matron Ada Watson, pictured with Kate Skinner and Rebecca Barbera who play World War I nurses in the play. Photo contributed

HEADED FOR MANILDRA: Through These Lines writer Cheryl Ward (right) who plays Matron Ada Watson, pictured with Kate Skinner and Rebecca Barbera who play World War I nurses in the play. Photo contributed

THE Soldiers Memorial Hall at Manildra will make the perfect setting for the touring production of Through These Lines, an Australian play focusing on the challenges of young Australian nurses who volunteered to serve overseas in World War I.

Writer Cheryl Ward, who also plays Matron Ada Watson in the play, has had the unique experience of seeing her play come to life from her initial research more than five years ago.

“I confess I knew very little about the contribution Australian nurses made to the war effort and it has been an amazing experience to spend time going through their diaries and writings at the Australian War Memorial,” she said.

Ms Ward said through her work devising the play, along with other stories emerging in the media, Australian nurses in World War I are finally getting the kudos they deserve.

“I think for a nurse dealing with a farming accident, for example, which would have been their trauma experience at the time, it was very different to the type of wounds and the other challenges they faced nursing Australian soldiers with terrible injuries,” she said.

Ms Ward said one dollar from every ticket sold at the three-performance season at the Manildra Soldiers Memorial Club will go towards the future upkeep of the hall.

“It is an important building for Manildra and was opened by Sir Neville Howse in 1926,” she said.

“The play is very intimate in that the audience are seated either side as the play takes place down the middle of the hall. The audience can actually see the nurses writing their letters home. They become very involved.

Through her research, Ms Ward said the story of opposition to Australian nurses heading overseas could be told.

“Not everyone agreed with women going overseas. Sir Neville Howse, for example, didn’t think female nurses were necessary,” she said.

However, Ms Ward’s research found that soldiers recovered about five days faster than they would have under the care of male medics.

“Perhaps it was the woman’s touch and that they were more diligent about hygiene. Or the boys just tried harder because they were being cared for by a woman,” she said.

Ms Ward said the talented ensemble and the use of authentic props would bring Through These Lines to life in Manildra on Tuesday, August 26 and Wednesday August 27.

Tickets are available at Manildra Newsagency, at the door or online at http://www.trybooking.com/83447.

janice.harris@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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