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Women in World War 1
Volunteer nurse Madge Yeatman and renowned poet C.J. Dennis were both of Auburn and their writings have now been combined in a unique marriage of story, song and multimedia by musician and writer Steven Oppes, presenting World War 1 through the eyes of the women who went to war, and those who stayed, waiting apprehensively to hear if their loved ones would ever return.
The production was inspired by a suggestion from Oppes' creative partner, Jean-Marc Spiler, after reading an article about Madge by local historian Kay Lambert. At the time, plans were being laid for a French Festival in the small Clare Valley town of Auburn, so what better place for the world premiere of the completed work?
The stars all fell into alignment when the duo met Dr Lisa Harper Campbell, director, producer and actor, who had specific interests in French screen and drama. In turn, Lisa brought on board two talented local actors, Nicholas Conway and Clare Mansfield, who coincidentally, had already played the role of a wartime nurse in 3 different TV series.
Lisa & Steven
The performances from these actors, as CJ Dennis and Madge Yeatman, were outstanding and they held the capacity audience enthralled throughout when the 75 minute production came to life at the inaugural Frenchfest in September. The only drawback was the low stage in the venue, the picturesque old stables behind Auburn's Rising Sun Inn, which meant those in the back rows saw only the head and shoulders of the actors - unfortunate, as they were worth watching.
Nicholas Conway as CJ Dennis
The French music and song component was superbly supplied by students from Adelaide's Elder Conservatorium, performing as the ensemble Minnie Little, and Stu Nankivell (Blue Goanna Digital) created the poignant multimedia, with sound and images from wartime footage.
After the war, Madge returned to Australia, still weakened by a bout of scarlet fever contracted in France, but later went back to Britain where she married British Artillery officer Hugh Hart-Davies. She died in 1986 at the age of 95.
C.J. Dennis went on to become one of Australia's most famous poets, writing over 5000 pieces, but he is best remembered for his verse novel 'The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke', written in 1915 and much-loved by troops on the front line for its down to earth Aussie language.
Clare Mansfield as Madge
This fascinating and well constructed play will be featured next at the 2022 Adelaide Fringe - don't miss it!