Foxholes of the Mind
I'm delighted to say that Foxholes of the Mind will go on a NON COMMERCIAL tour in Victoria in AUGUST, 2016. It will be part of the commemorations for the 50th anniversary of the battle of Long Tan, Australia's most recognised battle of the Vietnam war.
Thanks so much to principal sponsors, the Victorian Branch of the Vietnam Veterans' Association,the City of Greater Geelong; and the State Branch of the RSL. Without that funding, and additional donations from people who really care about veterans' welfare, this tour could not have happened.
I find it very sad that the Department of Veterans Affairs, who's principal raisson d'etre is veterans' welfare, declined assistance under the ministerial stewardship of Senator Michael Richardson. Perhaps now, under a new minister, there may be a chance for a more compassionate hearing?
Performances will be in Geelong (St Joseph's College, which sees the play as a valuable contribution to the college's senior arts and media curricula), Drysdale, Frankston and Sale, leading up to Vietnam Veterans' Day, August 18. Further venues may be added as funding allows.
Foxholes had its premiere season at La Mama Courthouse, November 2010 ... it was one of the top performing shows at La Mama for the year.
Here's what our premiere audiences had to say:
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.
And the critics ...
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 the Vietnam war on those on the frontline and those they came home to.
The 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, Sean Kavanagh, played Mark the psychologist, who tries to get everyone back on track.
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 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? I have introduced a new character, the voice of a younger veteran, into the script for the 2016 tour.
Already 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 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.