Prepare to pull the rip cord and land onto a battlefield in the middle of the Vietnam War as Brink Productions, in association with the Adelaide Festival Centre and State Theatre Company, recreate the overwhelming sonic barrage of the Battle of Long Tan.
'Long Tan' Director Chris Drummond summarises the governing premise of the world premiere production of 'Long Tan' as “everybody thought they were right and everybody suffered”.
While Australian historians have glorified the remarkable exploits of the vastly outnumbered Australian troops, playwright Verity Laughton sought to provide a balanced perspective, seeking the recollections of almost a dozen Australian soldiers, as well as the views of the Vietnamese, as Chris explains. “It is a collective re-telling of this battle of Long Tan; so ten soldiers taking us moment by moment through this horrible battle and that was a very intense, intimate physical experience for those guys that went through that.”'Long Tan' rehearsals. Image © Kate Pardey
“[Verity has] also interviewed a number people from the Vietnamese community, both here in Australia but also in Vietnam, and that is much more complex series of conversations for lots of reasons”.
“There are a lot of [Vietnamese] people in Australia who can’t get home… Where their families have come from. We wanted to be very careful not to try to generically represent all the Vietnamese perspectives, so she has taken the story of one village and one family inside that village and she’s told [their story] in a very spare way as a counterpoint to the main story.”
Owing to the raging politics that surrounded the Vietnam War, Vietnam vets were regularly vilified when they returned home. 'Long Tan' seeks to show that while all war is hell, it is that much worse when the fighting continues when returning to home soil, as Chris explains: “One of the things that has been really powerful that we’ve had as artists creating this… Is how raw the pain still is for all sorts of people, for everybody: for the people that protested but most particularly the soldiers who came back.”'Long Tan' rehearsals. Image © Kate Pardey
The design of 'Long Tan'’s staging was in part inspired by a wish to evoke empathy for our veterans who still feel the wound of being misunderstood, even 50 years on from the initial injury. It is a play that serves an essential public service for the nation that those young, brave men were often conscripted into defending. As such, the work has received significant public funding through the Australian Council for the Arts programme Catalyst.
“Verity, the playwright, wanted for our society to witness the horror [the soldiers] went through, the cost of them being sent by the Government into war.”
The auditory experience of the audience will be amplified, ensuring a surround sound bombast normally reserved for your IMAX blockbusters, but in a live setting with the dozen cast members surrounded by the audience, much like the soldiers were beset by their enemies: “The way that we are staging it is a bit like a tennis match, so the audience will be on two sides with the stage running down the middle and everybody will either be given headphones as they walk in or they’ll be waiting on their chair."'Long Tan' rehearsals. Image © Kate Pardey
“Visually it is like any other piece at the theatre where the actors come on stage and start to act out the story, but because the audience is getting [the sound] through the headphones with this rich film-like soundscape in and around the dialogue, it creates this very heightened, intense experience for the audience.”
An audio-visual exhibition will be housed in the foyer, providing additional insight into the famous conflict.
'Long Tan' plays Adelaide Festival Centre's Space Theatre from 31 March-8 April.