Presented by Therry Theatre
Reviewed 4 June 2021
It is always fascinating when theatre shows us bits of history that we are unaware of. Many of us know nothing of the crucial role that female telephonists played in the American struggles in France during World War I. This production gives us an insight into how much they did and who they were. The story takes us from their recruitment in New York to their service on the Western Front. These girls from different backgrounds needed to speak fluent French, be exceptional telephonists and later remember pages of constantly changing code.
The story follows Grace Banker (Rebecca Raymond), the leader of the first unit, and her fellow operators Suzanne Prevot (Cassidy Gaiter), Helen Hill (Michelle Davy), Bertha Hunt (Jenny Scarce) and Louise LeBreton (Eloise Quinn-Valentine) through their enlistment to deployment exposing the prejudices and difficulties they endured. Their story is interesting, but the treatment given to the story by writers Peter Mills and Cara Reichel also makes it entertaining.
On a David Lampard set, which doesn’t quite fit all the scenarios, Director Amanda Rowe has created a believable backdrop. Musically, Musical Director Mark DeLaine has everything under control and the cast produce some beautiful harmonies. Choreographer Kerry-Lynne Hauber has included some appealing moves in a show with few ‘big’ numbers.
The cast have created characters with depth: Raymond not only sings well but shows the strength and determination that Grace would have needed. Davy gives a sympathetic portrayal of Helen, the naïve country girl with grit. Louise lied about her age to be accepted; Quinn-Valentine plays her with spirit, and both Gaiter and Scarce give their characters depth and understanding.
The males are also important to the story. General Pershing, the man who asked for the women to be recruited, played with presence by Nicholas Setchell and Captain Riser, the man embarrassed to be in charge of women, portrayed with emotional strength by David MacGillivray. Jared Frost, Jared Gerschwitz and Deon Martino-Williams all deliver fine performances as the various other soldiers the girls encounter. In all, this is basically an ensemble cast who work so well together.
Therry has brought us a fresh new musical that is a little different. It is also very good, and I suspect tickets will become scarce, so I suggest you book soon!
Reviewed by Fran Edwards
Venue: Arts Theatre
Season: 2-19 June
Duration: 2.5 hrs including interval
Tickets: $17 – $35
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