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No Names, No Pack Drill at Old Mill Theatre

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Quintessential Australian play delivers wartime romance
No Names, No Pack Drill, Old Mill Theatre, play, South Perth, World War II, Bob Herbert, wartime romance, soldiers, America, stage, performing arts
No Names, No Pack Drill is set in Sydney during World War II and features Joel Sammels, left, Sjaan Lucas, Melissa Merchant and Cameron Leese.

Loyalty, honour and love are explored in the Old Mill Theatre's latest offering, the quintessential Australian play No Names, No Pack Drill. Written by Bob Herbert and directed by Kristen Twynam-Perkins, it's been described as a romantic drama based, in part, on an incident involving Herbert's sister and an American soldier at Kings Cross.

No Names, No Pack Drill is set in the Sydney summer of 1942 and looks at the effect of the so-called "Yankee invasion" during World War II. The story focuses on Kathy, a young married woman who lives in Kings Cross, who wakes up the morning after a party to find a US marine asleep on her couch. He is absent-without-leave, looking for a way back to the US and what happens next changes the trajectory of both their lives.

The play was later adapted into the 1985 film Rebel, featuring Matt Dillon, Bryan Brown and Debra Byrne, winning five AFI (Australian Film Institute) awards.

"I'd heard the Old Mill Theatre was looking for a new director for its season of No Names, No Pack Drill and, having previously directed the play 13 years ago at Roleystone Theatre, I put my hand up," Kristen said. "I have always loved the story and the characters in this play for me, it is about the characters, context and story more than anything else."

No Names, No Pack Drill, Old Mill Theatre, play, South Perth, World War II, Bob Herbert, wartime romance, soldiers, America, stage, performing arts
Joycie (Sjaan Lucas, right) is smitten when US marines, such as Bernie (Joel Sammels), arrive in town during No Names, No Pack Drill.

With more than 20 years' experience as a performer, director and choreographer, Twynam-Perkins has more than 70 productions to her credit, working with Playlovers, Roleystone, Stirling, Garrick, Marloo, Limelight and KADS Theatres on Working, Curtains, Bare, Eurobeat, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Spamalot, Gruesome Playground Injuries and My Fair Lady. In 2008, Bare was named best musical at the annual Finley Awards with Kristen also nominated for best choreographer and best director while, most recently, she appeared in Graceland, winner of the Jenny McNae Adjudicator's Award at the 2015 Dramafest.

Her work as a drama teacher at Helena College has also kept her busy, directing The Laramie Project, The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Cloudstreet, The Importance of Being Earnest, Seussical, Honk, The Seussification of Romeo and Juliet and Peter Pan.

"The main challenge with No Names, No Pack Drill is the dated language," Kristen said. "It can come across as being quite dry at times and this creates a bit of a static feel to the piece. To overcome this, we have focused on the characterisations."

No Names, No Pack Drill, Old Mill Theatre, play, South Perth, World War II, Bob Herbert, wartime romance, soldiers, America, stage, performing arts
Kathy (Melissa Merchant, left) finds everything is turned upside down when Henry "Rebel

Melissa Merchant plays Kathy and describes her as an interesting character. "She's defiant of society's expectations in some ways and yet she conforms in others," Melissa said. "She marries because she thinks it's what she should do yet is later drawn to a US marine who camps out on her sofa and, as a result, makes life-changing choices not necessarily in her best interests.

"Kathy is very similar and, at the same time, very different to me she is quite level-headed, like me, but then she makes choices I never would. No Names, No Pack Drill appealed because I really wanted to be involved in an Australian classic.

"I have performed in many different types of plays but never had the chance to do something so uniquely Australian. The era also appealed to me 1940s Sydney during World War II was a time when women were beginning to become more autonomous and I thought that would be fun to explore."

No Names, No Pack Drill, Old Mill Theatre, play, South Perth, World War II, Bob Herbert, wartime romance, soldiers, America, stage, performing arts
Mrs Palmer (Norma Davis, left) is a no-nonsense landlady in No Names, No Pack Drill, suspicious about what Kathy (Melissa Merchant) and the two-faced Tiger (Sam Barnett) get up to.

No Names, No Pack Drill plays at 8pm December 4, 5, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17, 18 and 19 with a special 4pm matinee December 13 (matinee includes free Christmas refreshments and complimentary glass of champagne). Tickets are $25, $20 concession book at oldmilltheatre.com.au/tickets or on 9367 8719.

It is the seventh and final show in a year of all-Australian plays at the Old Mill Theatre to commemorate the centenary of the Gallipoli landing in 2015. The heritage-listed Old Mill Theatre is on the corner of Mends Street and Mill Point Road, South Perth (opposite the Windsor Hotel and Australia Post).
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Why? It's a drama and romance, defined by its World War II setting and a snapshot of Australia at a certain period of time.
When: 8pm December 4, 5, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17, 18 & 19; 4pm December 13
Phone: 9367 8719
Where: Old Mill Theatre, Mends Street, South Perth
Cost: $25, $20 concession
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