‘1916, a love story’ is a musical play written by local lad, John Beaton, and is suitable for the whole family. An ex-Councillor for Mundaring, John was also a member of the State Executive at the Australian Writers’ Guild, and a lecturer in Screen Topics at Curtin, Murdoch, and WAAPA. He has received a WA Screen Industry Award for his Outstanding Contribution.

This delightful, fairly simple storyline imparts a great deal of information to the younger members of the audience. John has selected many of the old musical favourites of the day.

Darlington Theatre Players are presenting two-hours of musical memories, at the Marloo Theatre, 20 Marloo Road, Greenmount, with curtain up at 8.00 pm each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday evenings and 2.00 pm for the Sunday matinées. The season runs until Saturday 8th December.

The season opens on the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, the signing of the Treaty of Versailles that would see the end of all wars. As it happened, it was the unreasonable and impossible demands made on Germany by this treaty that became a major cause of the second war.

The scene: October 1916 in the Glen Forrest area.

The set: There is a 4 x 3 metre, mottled grey wall (looking like concrete) on each side of the stage. They taper slightly toward the rear; where on the back wall is a large projection screen. These grey walls were very versatile, with various light patterns and colours, they became anything from old factory brick walls, to shady dappled woodland (lighting designed and operated by Michael Hart).

The set designer was George Boyd, (construction by George, Michael Hart, Duncan Beatty, Adrian Ashman, Luke Miller, Daniel Minutillo, and Bailey Fellows), who surprised the audience when each walls rotated through 100 degrees to reveal two interior scenes. One was the James’ home, smart with a well-furnished kitchenette, whereas the other depicted the home of struggling Irish immigrants, the O’Connors’, a cramped, one-roomed house.

Lesley Sutton supplied the props, which included some quality enamelware jugs. Lesley even produced a soap saver cage – something I had forgotten about decades ago.

The fine sound design was by Guy Jackson, and operated by Bailey Fellow and Ambro Vonk.

The external scenes relied upon Blake Jenkins’ projected images and videos. Blake has shown skill in selecting quality views that immediately depicted the atmosphere of the locations, from an ethereal railway station, to the docks.

Stage manager George Boyd controlled a magnificent fast, silent, efficient, and almost invisible stage crew (Locklen Falkingham, Belinda Beatty, Adrian Ashman, Luke Miller, and Guy Jackson)

In a Baptist household, the loving father, Charlie James (Daniel Minutillo) believes in backing the ‘old country’. He is trying to encourage his elderly mother, Grandma Dorothy (Jenny Trestrail) and his wife, Julia (Michelle Ezzy) into backing compulsory conscription in the imminent vote, thus forcing Australian men to go to war.

Twelve-year old, Harry (Kody Fellows – well done) is upset to learn that his 18-year-old brother, Robert (Guy Jackson) has voluntarily enlisted in the army. Robert expects to be back quite soon, but he is headed for the Somme. With about 50,000 Aussie troops killed already, will Robert’s mother be next to receive the telegram that all mothers dread? Much to the annoyance of staunch Roman Catholic family man, Joe O’Connor (Alan Gill) and his dutiful wife, Mary (Sophie Byrnes), their 18-years old son, ‘Paddy’ (Jack Martin) has fallen for Protestant teenager, Rose James (Matilda Jenkins). Joe has very strong opinions about religion and liberty. On a podium outside the Midland Railway Workshops, the Union leaders (Dominic Masterson, Luke Miller, Russell Fellows, and Tim Bolton) are fighting for higher wages, and advising their members how to vote. The pacifist, the Reverend Meade (Brendan Tobin) seems to cause friction in the village with his ideals.
Chorus: Adrian Ashman, Amanda Minutillo, Belinda Beatty, David Zuiddam, Evie Madeleine, Gloster Guest, Joshua White, Rachel Vonk, Ruby Oliver, Sarah White, Suzanna Matla-Ienco, Suzy June Wakeling, and Tracey Morrison.

There are about a dozen songs, which despite being 100 years old, are instantly recognisable. The musical director, Iain Martin, has given us a selection of solos, duets, and choral groups. Pianist Ann Cahill accompanies the singers flawlessly from the upstage wings. This simple accompaniment gave an authentic mood, as in the early 1900s families would sit around the piano in the parlour, taking turns at giving their party piece. The singers were all perfectly in tune and in the groups sang as one voice with no one member trying to hog the limelight.

There were several extra fine voices in the ‘two families’, from Daniel’s rich bass voice to his ‘wife’ Michelle’s soprano rendition. Most impressive, with every word heard perfectly.

The costumes were again the task of Marjorie DeCaux, who, assisted by Rachel, Tracy and Rebecca has this time given us ‘the smart working class basics’, as opposed to her normal opulent output.

A stunning Art Deco style, A4 programme from Docuprint, with a beautiful piece of artwork on the front cover.

Directed by the talented and energetic Neroli Sweetman, who is never scared to have a new challenge, the cast have presented just the right amount of pathos with meaningful poignant moments. There was a particularly touching scene when Harry was talking to his brother Robert in the kitchen. The curtain call – in respect to the memories played out – is taken in silence. When the whole cast were gathered, they gave a simple nod of the head, before the audience showed their appreciation for a most enjoyable, respectful and worthy night’s entertainment.

‘Those who died yesterday had plans for this morning. Those who died this morning had plans for tonight. Do not take life for granted. In the blink of an eye, everything can change. So forgive often, and love with all your heart. You may never know when you may have the chance again’. (Lessons learned in life)