Of Auburn draws on personal accounts, poetry and song
to tell of the experiences of women engaged in the theatre
of war and on the home front during World War I.
An integrated multimedia production of stunning contemporaneous images and sound contributes to the immersive experience.
The historic character of Madge Yeatman of Auburn addresses the audience with
” I am many women.
I am many women who left love…
In so doing she becomes the vehicle for the experiences of nurses in the Australian Army Nursing Service as told through their diaries and letters. Framed by the real life story of WW1 volunteer Madge, the accounts draw heavily on the poignant writings of Anne Donnell, Elsie Trantor and Grace Wilson.
As these accounts unfold, stories and passages of poetry read by the CJ Dennis character (also of Auburn) are weaved in to provide a complimentary perspective: from the girlfriend who receives the MIA notification; from the mother or wife who has lost their “sunny boy”; from the wounded soldier. Most passages come from the poet’s most successful works from the lead up to WW1 to the immediate post-war era: The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke, The Moods of Ginger Mick and Digger Smith.
The production includes powerful French songs, performed live by a trio of singer, pianist and cellist, which further reflect the narrative. The songs are penned from a woman’s perspective and although they come from different eras, still resonate today. The departure of men to the war is described in Mon Mari Est Parti (My Husband Has Left), leaving women to await news from the front in Maman Attend Le Facteur (Mummy Waits for The Postman) as might be received in Le Soldat (The Soldier). After the war there is reconciliation in the discovery “that children are the same in Paris and Göttingen” in Germany in the hauntingly beautiful Göttingen.
The stunning war images of legendary adventurer and photographer Frank Hurley and photographer/volunteer orderly A.W. Savage are reimagined with digital enhancements and the added dimension of a soundscape.
Reviews of Creatives’ past works
“Blues and jazz with a French twist – Energetic, Funny, Expressive, Talented.”
(WeekendNotes, Les Flâneurs Volants) *****
“Director Lisa Harper Campbell has crafted, using a minimal number of elements,
an experience that feels impressively fluid and well-modulated.”
(Stage Whispers, The Double Bass) https://www.stagewhispers.com.au/reviews/double-bass
Biographies of Creatives
Dr Lisa Harper Campbell is an acting graduate of the Flinders University Drama Centre. Acting highlights include performing in the award-nominated Biography: A Game and Perplex (Joh Hartog Productions), appearing in new web-series, Ruby June and playing Julie Bishop in the national tour of Abbott! The Musical. She has also performed and toured her own original work including a comedic solo show, A Bee’s Dick Away and the satirical piece A Full English Breakfast with Clive Palmer. Lisa has produced for both theatre (Foul Play Theatre’s Julie and Yerma) and radio (Radio Adelaide’s Arts Breakfast).
She has worked with acclaimed French actor and director Zabou Breitman and in 2019, made her directorial debut with The Double Bass. After a year-long delay, she directed the critically-acclaimed world premiere of Alex Vickery-Howe’s Watchlist at the Bakehouse Theatre in June 2021. TV credits include winning Fastest Finger First on Millionaire Hot Seat and taking home the big brass mug on ABC’s Hard Quiz with her special topic, the French Resistance.
Lisa obtained her doctorate in French Cinema in 2017 and has since conducted research and lectured across French, Screen and Drama Studies at various universities. Her first book, Reframing Remembrance: Contemporary French Cinema and the Second World War will be published by Manchester University Press in October. Lisa hopes to create and deliver many wildly appreciated, big budget plays, TV shows and films which explore socio-political issues with a comedic bent.
Steven Oppes was a foundation member of the Creole Cowboyz (CCZ) in 2015 following a residency in New Orleans, LA where his musical horizon was immeasurably broadened. CCZ performed extensively at folk and country music festivals (Fleurieu Folk Festival, Kapunda Folk Festival, Blanchetown Muster) and country music clubs from Pt Pirie to the Southern Vales until disbanding in 2020.
Steven is a member of the house band at Minda Inc, RUSERIOUS, where he delights in entertaining and simply having fun with the beautiful clients of that wonderful institution.
Steven formed Les Flâneurs Volants (LFV) with his creative partner Jean-Marc Spiler in 2018 to follow his passion for the music of the French diaspora, vis a vis Cajun, Quebecoise and French music. LFV started as a trio and now considers itself a collective bringing in regular musical guests as inspired. Performance highlights include the Adelaide Festival Centre French Festival, Umbrella Music Festival and Adelaide Fringe 20 and 21 ★★★★★ (https://www.weekendnotes.com/jacques-is-bacque-adelaide-fringe/192437/ ).
Steven along with creative partner Jean-Marc Spiler conceived the Auburn Frenchfest and has been working with the community of Auburn as artistic director to deliver the inaugural festival in September 2021. Auburn Frenchfest is a weekend arts event featuring theatre, cabaret, music, puppetry, circus and supporting events.
A true Parisian at heart, Jean-Marc Spiler migrated from France in 1988. In 2009, and after a long career as a graphic designer, he decided to follow his passion for languages and became an English as Second Language teacher working with migrants and refugees. In 2013, Jean-Marc fulfilled the seemingly impossible dream of becoming… a French teacher, which he still is.
In 2018, Jean-Marc’s creative drive led him to forming Les Flâneurs Volants (LFV) with quasi-miraculously like-minded Steven Oppes. This artistic collaboration fuelled Jean-Marc’s creativity especially as he became LFV’s singer and co-writer of the successful Jacques Cabaret shows.
During the 2020 lockdown, Jean-Marc pioneered on-line teaching in Adelaide and put together an on-line virtual choir which remains to this date one of his most memorable creative achievements. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tw9akvLa8uk
Besides working on the inaugural Auburn Frenchfest and co-producing Of Auburn, Jean-Marc is currently working on the audio-visual production of one of his short stories. He remains, more than ever, a dedicated advocate and practitioner of the undoubtedly magical art of synchronicity.
Clare Mansfield graduated from Flinders University Drama Centre (BCA Hons) in 2013. Working with the Bakehouse Theatre, Clare received a nomination for Best Professional Female Performance at the 2014 Adelaide Theatre Guide Awards for her performance in East of Berlin. She was nominated for an Adelaide Critics Circle award in 2015 for her work in Reasons to Be Pretty. Her most recent roles at the Bakehouse were in Atlanta and The Golden Dragon, in 2017 and Perplex in 2018. Clare is passionate about children’s theatre and has performed at the 2017 DreamBIG Children’s Festival in Gone Viral and at the 2016 Fringe in Vampires Suck & Werewolves Smell. She currently works performing for children as a Captain Starlight at the Women’s & Children’s Hospital. She has appeared in the TV series The Tourist, Deadline Gallipoli, Changed Forever and ANZAC Girls and feature film A Month of Sundays. She has also appeared in numerous TV commercials.
Nicholas Conway is a writer, actor and musician and has been an active member of the Adelaide Arts scene since 2011 with 2021 marking his tenth consecutive year contributing to the Adelaide Fringe. He has co-written and produced over 8 musicals and theatre pieces with his art-rock group, George Glass. In 2015 he embarked on a national tour with his show Abbott! The Musical where he played the titular character. His show, Scientology The Musical was twice supported by Made In Adelaide to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe “…one of the most bizarre and utterly hilarious musical experiences I have ever witnessed” ★★★★. In 2019 Nic won a comedy award at the Adelaide Fringe for his show, George Glass Proves The Existence of God. Most recently, Nic has completed a regional tour with cross-form theatre, music and art show, George Glass Does Art Attack.
Jasmine Ferguson, Ciara Ferguson and Jack Overall have been working together since 2014 in various combinations as part of their schooling at the Special Interest Marryatville High School and since 2019 and have been working professionally in the ensemble Minnie Little.
The band began life as an emerging artist for the Creative Original Music Adelaide program and have since released their debut EP ‘minnie little’ whilst continuing to perform at various venues around Adelaide. Jasmine, Ciara and Jack are all students at the Elder Conservatorium.
Stu Nankivell graduated from university in 1998 and enrolled in a diploma in Mutlimedia course at Prides Business College. Here he found the tools to create animations, visual effects, movies and websites were tangible.
Stu established Blue Goanna Digital in 2014 with Tim Froling. The company was created to offer creative services of animation, visual effects and video production to regional South Australia.
More than a decade on he continues working in a field that he is so passionate about. His role at Blue Goanna Digital is to produce engaging content that effectively communicates with the general public and business owners alike. He is most inspired when he’s making things for other people, whether it is visual effects, animation or video production. https://bluegoanna.com.au
I didn’t have in mind the writing of a play when, together with my creative partner Jean-Marc Spiler, we proposed a French Arts Festival to the community of Auburn in the beautiful Clare Valley in South Australia.
The idea came to Jean-Marc after reading an article about Madge Yeatman and a follow up meeting with the author, local historian Kay Lambert. Sitting under the charming wooden Gallery of the Auburn Uniting Church they also talked about Auburn’s famous Larrikin Poet Laureate, C.J. Dennis.
“Could we write a production that featured Madge and CJ for Auburn Frenchfest?” was the essence of the question Jean-Marc posed to me. The concept of drawing together 5 elements to tell the story in Of Auburn literally flowed onto paper the following morning and has remained unchanged during development.
The challenge in writing Of Auburn lay in the integration of the 5 seemingly disparate elements of the play:
• The experiences of women in the theatre of war and at home during WW1 through the narration of Madge Yeatman;
• The wartime poetry of CJ Dennis;
• Live performance of songs from women’s perspectives which relate to their experiences
• War images of Frank Hurley and AW Savage and contemporaneous film;
• Soundscape ranging from sounds of the bucolic Australian countryside to the gathering storm of the war to war and displacement.
The key to meeting a challenge, as is always the case, is research. How fortunate are we that we have wonderful libraries (Mitchell, Barr Smith, SLSA to name a few) with books that can be sourced from all locations and archives that can be downloaded directly and, if not, with the assistance of willing librarians, scanned and delivered to your inbox. There are also marvellous websites (awm.gov.au, vwma.org.au, again to name a few) that collate valuable resources on war veterans.
The stories of the women who volunteered out of a sense duty to King and Empire or even to their fathers and brothers who had departed to the war before them, or perhaps for the adventure, is difficult to reconcile from this distance in time. The conditions they worked under were extraordinary: extremes of weather, disease, deprivations of food, poor accommodation, long hours of work, exposure to the carnage of broken soldiers and bombardment. This is not an exhaustive list. And yet they accepted all challenges and their resolve remained firm. Many returned to Australia suffering disabilities following their service and were unable to return their normal work. Others continued in their caring roles with incapacitated husbands, brothers and other veterans or even ageing parents.
Traditionally, the theatrical representation of Australia’s war history has privileged the male perspective and male experiences and silenced the voices and stories of women during war time. This production helps to fill a gap in theatrical representation.
We must also acknowledge the women who remained on the home front: those who saw their men leave, who waited anxiously for news and those that received the dreaded letter advising of the loss of a dear one.
Although the concept has remained unchanged, the script has undergone many iterations and I sincerely thank early advice and review from Chris John, Mels Bardolia, Andrew McKenzie and my partner in life, Erika Oppes.
Synchronicity has been a significant player in this project. Perhaps it starts with my interest in the European wars since the 1980s, leading to visits to museums and battlegrounds and the privilege of hearing accounts directly from veterans who were clients in my professional life.
Then my search for a director brought me to Lisa Harper Campbell, whose list of special interests includes wartime France and the French language. Her belief in the project made the rest of the project possible and her organisational skill has made it happen. It has been a joy working with such a consummate professional.
Lisa introduced actors Nicholas Conway, who perfectly captures the impishness of CJ Dennis, and Clare Mansfield, who has played the role of WW1 nurse in 3 television productions: ANZAC Girls, Deadline Gallipoli and Changed Forever. The collaboration with Nicholas and Clare through their readings and suggestions has seen further refinement of the script.
Synchronicity presented again with the discovery that Lewis, the drummer for my band Les Flâneurs Volants, also plays with a Francophone singer, pianist and cellist in the band Minnie Little. This was exactly the combo I saw in my vision of the play: a female with a clean young voice supported by musicians with a classical sound. Jasmine and Ciara Ferguson and Jack Overall fit the bill perfectly. Ciara’s original composition The Gloaming Suite, written as part of another project, has also been a blessing in the production.
The final piece of synchronicity came in the form of Stu Nankivell, a digital alchemist, with a passion for bringing together a number of digital suites and skills to create something new and original. Past experience with a theatre production on the subject of war has been a bonus. A family history of participation in the wars further ties him to the narrative of the play.
And where to now? It is our duty to tell the story of the lives of the few who changed the lives of many…..