Foxholes of the Mind
NATIONAL TOUR 2021
Finally,the big Foxholes tour is "GO" for May next year.
Here’s how it will look:
Adelaide, Royalty Theatre, performances May 6,7,8.
Canberra, Canberra Theatre Centre, May 12,13,14.
Hobart, Playhouse Theatre, May 20,21,22.
Newcastle, Civic Centre Playhouse, May 27,28,29.
We are extremely grateful to the Australian Government Department of Social Services, which has given us a grant to make this tour possible. Without it there would be no tour, no artistically based initiative to help stop the suicides.
We had hoped to take the play to Queensland, NT and WA as well however we were unsuccessful in obtaining a grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs and so were forced to scale back our plans considerably.
Undeterred though, we will re-apply in the next DVA grants round for funding a tour to those states in either 2022 or 2023. The "job" is not complete and like the Army, we don’t do things half-arsed. It would be nice if DVA and its Minister, the Hon. Darren Chester, who have stated in writing that Foxholes is “a very worthwhile initiative”, give us support and lead the charge next time.
Unlike most big productions, this is not a big profit making venture. This country of ours is bloody big and the costs of covering ground with cast, crew, staging, etc are considerable; and actors and crew etc must be paid (they like to eat too!) but we’ll be happy if we break even.
The tour is all about contributing, in an entertaining and educational way, to veterans’ mental health. That’s it.
If you’d like to help in any way, cash or kind, my Director and Producer, Wolf Heidecker, would be delighted to hear from you. Call him on 0413 555 630 or email email@example.com.
Now, going back in time, Foxholes premiered at La Mama Courthouse theatre in 2010 to virtually full houses and toured Victoria to critical acclaim in 2016.
Excerpts from the 2016 show are on YouTube: https://youtu.be/L-PdlG2AtJI
As one of our audience commented back in 2016 ...
"Fabulous play! Everyone should see it to understand what our soldiers go through in order to protect this wonderful country of ours."
And here's the story of the 2016 tour and why it was so successful: all venues, Drysdale, Bayswater, Sale, Frankston, Ballarat and Philip Island attracted strong audiences despite funding available only for limited marketing. The performance at St. Joseph’s College, Geelong, to Year 10s (average age 15-16) was enlightening. According to reports (this was the only performance I missed, through illness) they were very attentive and their questions later revealed a deep curiosity which I found gratifying.
Perhaps the highlight of the tour was the performance at the National Vietnam Veterans’ Museum on Philip Island. When they first contacted me to ask if we would perform the play there I said no, we needed a dedicated theatre.
They said they’d build one, and they did. They cleaned out a restoration work shed at the rear of the museum, with the exception of an RAAF Vietnam war era Canberra bomber they’re restoring. Under one wing they installed 120 seats. A stage was built, theatre lighting installed, and voila! A magnificent theatre appeared - with tremendously realistic ambience.
The sell-out audience loved it - and really appreciated the drinks and nibbles before and after the show.
A feature of the tour was a Q&A after every show with producer/director Wolf Heidecker, the actors and myself. Even though the play was a full two hours, 99.9% of audience members remained for that chat.
Many people related personally to the play’s story. Many told their own stories, their own experiences with PTSD. Many said they now better understood PTSD and close relatives affected by it. There were many hugs and tears of (hopefully) healing.
Foxholes, despite my attempt to inject some humor into the script, is still a chilling, eye-opening show. And yet it is a story which had to be told, and needs to be retold, over and over again, until there is a wide community understanding of PTSD and its potentially devastating effects on our society. Our audiences probably totalled more than 2000. Yes, a mere drop in the ocean, but with a little luck, the ripple effect will spread the word. Only time will tell on that.
Reviews from both audiences and critics were overwhelmingly positive. Thank you. For that I’m most grateful. There was a huge number of people who made a contribution to the play and the tour, both large and small. Every one of them was extremely valuable. Again, thank you, personally and behalf of the veteran community.
From my own perspective, this tour was a purposeful step in a long journey which began about 15 years ago, sparked by the suicide of two close veteran mates. It has been a very personal one, a mission, a passion.
Foxholes cannot save the world, but hopefully it can and will continue to make a contribution to the public awareness of veterans’ health issues. I’m very gratified to see that the current government has pledged to introduce initiatives to address some, particularly to review the historically adversarial approach of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to veterans’ issues.
I take no credit for that. My voice has been just one among thousands demanding far better treatment and appreciation of our veterans. And yet there is far more to be done politically. There needs to be far more than scraps from the master’s table. There needs to be actions to back the words, actions to stop the suicides, compassion to help the healing. It would appear that our current Veterans' Affairs Minister, Darren Chester, is determined to put veterans first, rather than bureacratic process. And all credit to him for that.
It would be enlightening if politicians would reflect on these words of wisdom from George Washington: "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, is directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation."
Here's just a little of what our audiences had to say:
Brilliant. Raw. Challenging. Heartbreakingly tragic. You cannot see this and leave untouched, angry and determined to do something about righting the wrongs it exposes. It would be a valuable experience for all students over 15 years of age at secondary school and especially university.
The Q&A session afterwards exposed emotions and insights from the audience that complimented and added greatly to the performance.
It was a privilege to see this production, but more importantly, to share it with those whose stories it highlights.
Congratulations to all involved.
Don’t miss this when it comes to your local theatre! - Darren
The most powerful theatre I've experienced for a long, long time. The performance by the actors of a highly emotional and sensitive subject was first class, so believable, so heart breakingly genuine. Here I am days later and it still affects me. - Annette
Absolutely amazing! Tony and I found it very powerful and the acting was sensational! - Nanci.
Left me stunned. My father is a Vietnam veteran and I have always been exceptionally proud of him and his military service. Foxholes staggered me in so many ways. I laughed and of course I cried. Thank you for sharing this story ... If anything is going to make people more aware of PTSD and what it can do to people, it's Foxholes. - Kelly.
A brilliant, first class portrayal of an incredibly difficult subject. - Max.
Beautifully acted and presented ...top show, very confronting but very explanatory for a lot of Vietnam veteran issues ... was a psych session in play form ... great acting, very real and funny in a lot of bits so not a show where afterwards you felt like going and slitting the wrists. - Rob.
The play opened discussions with my kids on how we recognise and cope with stress. Actors were very convincing, and credibly depicted human emotions and struggles. - Viga.
Such a memorable night ... inspirational play with excellent performances and imaginitive direction ... the audience response was a tribute to you all ... such a tightly written script with great construction ... you reached everybody, those who shared your experience and those of us who didn't. One chap who happened to stand beside me in the lobby after the show felt the need to talk to someone. He'd done two tours of Iraq and commented that the play touched on everything as far as he was concerned. - Hugh.
Linda and I have rarely been so totally absorbed in a play and a story ... just a brilliant piece of writing with the acting and the production/direction on the night only contributing to the enjoyment. - Richard.
The strength of the play is the perfect balance of the diagnosis, the explanation and treatment, and impact on veteran family relationships. In therapy, the formula is ADTP - assessment, diagnosis, treatment, plan. Nailed it. - Laraine.
Very deep and thought provoking, controversial and yet sensitive, wow, that's some mixture. Powerful script beautifully executed, casting was impressive. We spent 1 1/2 hours on the drive home in discussing issues, understanding characters, looking for similarities to people we know, trying to understand. We believe we have gained something. - Steve.
Foxholes is one of those pieces that stay with you, it's so honest and raw. - Sandy.
Fabulous play - everyone should see it to understand what our soldiers go through in order to protect this wonderful country of ours. - Dora.
Brilliant show on PTSD! - Alice.
A truly powerful play, well done to all those involved. If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and go! - Peter.
It was amazing! Still processing it. Best play I have ever been to. - Rebecca.
An excellent play, intense, moving and very informative. - Lisa.
And the critics ...
...One of the most powerful and moving pieces of theatre I have ever seen. - Daryl McLure, Geelong Advertiser.
Foxholes of the Mind is a production of power and eloquence - and it's probably the most potent anti-war play that I have seen. Ever. But for all of its eye-catching acting and staging skills, the most memorable thing about Foxholes was the sheer power of its writing. - Colin Mockett, Entertainment Geelong.
Foxholes is engaging, well researched and well plotted. It works on many levels, on the plus side are well thought out characters (Frank is satisfyingly complex), with believable motives, a good, solid structure with welcome changes of pace preventing it becoming a talk-fest, flashbacks and a not-too-neat ending ... its authenticity is above reproach. - Liza Dezfouli, www.australianstage.com.au
Bernard Clancy has written a bold and confident narrative featuring strong characters and a moving story of loss and redemption. The script is eloquent and Clancy is courageous enough to avoid political correctness without losing his key message ... this piece has you on the edge of your seat. - Karla Dondio, sometimesmelbourne.
I sat transfixed as I peered deeply into the souls of the characters. This never wavered during the next 1 1/2 hours. Clancy grabs the audience by the scruff of the neck with feelings of anger and sorrow in the veteran and especially the fallout that flows on to family and friends. The actors were superb, each one of them! I hope that this play is made available to more citizens of Australia. Foxholes of the Mind goes a long way to showing what war can do to the youth of our country. - Gordon Traill, www.peacekeepers.asn.au
If you missed it, what is
Foxholes of the Mind all about?
... a wry, touching and uniquely Australian exploration of the effects of war on those on the frontline and those they came home to.
The Vietnam war was 30 years ago, but now Frank is cracking up. He doesn't understand why, but his wife does, and she's had enough. It's PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - and it's deadly.
PTSD has invaded the lives of not only Frank and Trish, but those of Frank's Vietnam war mates - and it's destroying them, like a communal cancer.
Foxholes of the Mind is the story of Frank and Trish, as well as other vets and their families - and how PTSD has infiltrated their lives, poisoning relationships, wrecking families, alienating their children.
But there is hope ... Frank and his vet mates participate - reluctantly - in group therapy, specifically designed to help them understand and counter their dis-ease. It's a rough ride, however, as they fearfully face the demons of their past. And yet they still have a sense of humor, black though it may be.
And then there's Nigel, a much younger veteran of the Afghanistan conflict, who has contracted the very same PTSD dis-ease. And yet, there's something different...
The actors ...
The lead character (Frank) was played by Peter Finlay, a very experienced and accomplished actor of both stage and screen who earned exceptional praise from La Mama artistic director Liz Jones for this performance.The lead female role (Trish) was played by Joanne Davis, who has been "treading the boards" for a number of years. Her portrayal of Trish was "absolutely spot on", according to many Vietnam wives through their tears. Adrian Mulraney played three very different and challenging characters, all severely effected by PTSD. Adrian is also a very experienced thespian of both stage and screen. Next is Maureen Hartley, who has a long list of credits in theatre, especially at La Mama. She played Nurse Sheila, sent to Vietnam to care for wounded soldiers but who returns home with PTSD wounds herself.
Our fifth actor, Victor Gralak played Mark the psychologist, who tries to get everyone back on track.
David Lih played the new character in the play, Nigel, a Vietnamese refugee baby who became an Aussie Digger serving in Afghanistan. His role highlighted the plight of the current service person, sadly an all-too-familiar story.
Wolf Heidecker's direction was imaginative and highly acclaimed by cast, crew and audiences alike.
Why did I write Foxholes?
Simply, to save lives ... to highlight how damaging PTSD can be, not just to individuals, but our entire society. I couldn't save two great mates, who suicided, but maybe Foxholes will help someone else.
Politicians must understand that to commit a young Australian to war could be a sentence of pain, stress and anguish for life. Armed with this knowledge, would they be prepared to do the same to their child as anyone else’s?
While the characters in Foxholes of the Mind are largely Vietnam veterans, we are seeing veterans from much later wars including Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan returning with the same dis-ease. Are we, as a society, learning anything from the folly of our wars? For the 2016 tour I introduced a new character, the voice of a younger veteran, into the script. His voice is very telling.
We have testimonials that this play has encouraged more than one troubled vet with PTSD to seek help, and get back a life stolen from them. For that I'm very grateful.
Let me conclude with personal thanks to my director Wolf Heidecker. Without his faith in the play nothing would have happened.
And one last word ... to Christy, my wonderful wife, whose persistent, unwavering belief in Foxholes was an absolute inspiration.