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THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER

Produced by Monkey Baa Theatre Company

From Sydney, Australia

With a tour timed to honor the centenary of WWI and America’s entry in 1917, this poignant new work explores themes of war, duty, courage and sacrifice. Using the lens of history, we discover the universal meaning/lessons and importance of The Unknown Soldier throughout the play and consider his significance for young audiences worldwide today.

The production tells two stories a century apart: the battlefields of WWI and the home front of modern day. 13 year old Charlie is coping with his father’s return from Afghanistan with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); and Charlie’s Aunt Angela is the peace activist trying to make sense of it all. Through the discovery of some old letters, Charlie and Angela piece together the stories of Albert, a 16 year old solider preparing “to go over the top” while fighting for King and Country, and Grace, a mother and volunteer nurse who is searching for her lost son. Through Albert and Grace’s letters, the historical war comes alive, and Charlie and Angela find new perspective on the lives of soldiers, nurses and the families back home. 

Past Productions: Hitler's Daughter,   I Am Jack

Best for Grades: 5th – 9th

Audience Size: Medium to Large Venues

Please contact us to watch the full length archival recording.

 

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Company Background

Past tours: I am Jack and Hitler’s Daughter

Monkey Baa Theatre Company is a dynamic, inspiring Theatre Company based in Sydney, Australia. Started in 1997 by actors Tim McGarry, Sandra Eldridge and Eva Di Cesare, Monkey Baa is one of Australia's largest touring companies with a reputation for creating exceptional theatre for young people and their families. 

 

Central to the company's philosophy is the belief that young people's interests are valued and respected and that they are engaged in the performing arts through the telling of stories that entertain, inspire and encourage a greater understanding of the world and their place within it.

 

Monkey Baa has adapted, produced and toured 16 new major works since its inception. The company received the 2007 Helpmann Award for Best Children's Presentation (equivalent of the Tony Awards), the 2007 Drover for Touring Excellence and the 2006 Drover for Audience Development for Jackie French's Hitler's Daughter. In 2010 the Company won the Helpmann Award for Sonya Hartnett's Thursday's Child and the 2011 Glug Award for Fox. Five of the company's works have been published; Hitler's Daughter, Thursday's Child, Worry Warts, Pete the Sheep with The Unknown Soldier set for publication later in 2016.  

 

As Australia’s widest reaching touring company, they have performed in just about every corner of the country across metropolitan, rural and remote Australia. Over 1.1 million young people aged 3-18 have engaged with the company over the last 15 years. In 2013 the company embarked on its first US tour, a ten week tour of award winning ‘Hitler’s Daughter’ and in 2014, the company toured I am Jack throughout the US. Monkey Baa toured I Am Jack throughout Northern America again in 2015.

 

Visit the company's website: http://www.monkeybaa.com.au/ 

 

Artistic Team

Written by Monkey Baa Co-Creative Director, Sandra Eldridge.
Director: Matt Edgerton
Set and Costume Designer: Anna Gardiner
Lighting Designer: Matt Cox
Sound Designer: David Stalley 

Dramaturge: Tim McGarry
Cast: Sandra Eldridge and Felix Johnson

Critical Acclaim

 

I really enjoyed what you performed today! I liked how you focused on the remembrance of the soldiers who fought and died in the war because it is important that we remember that they fought for us to remain a free country. I loved how it made me feel different emotions like sadness, anger, happiness and especially respect for those who fought. Thank-you for making these feelings possible and I really hope to see your other performances. Thank you very much!

—Faith,

Grade 6 student

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to watch this wonderful production. The play was a very realistic journey from the past to the present. Sandra was a wonderful casting choice for Grace and Auntie Angela. Felix was also a fantastic casting choice for Charlie and Albert. I am not an emotional person but it brought a tear to my eye.

—Willow,

Grade 7 student

It was an amazing performance that had me mesmerised from beginning to end. The simplicity of the play made for an impressive impact and depicted the emotions and events in a very powerful way. The props were extremely suitable and the scene shifts from present day to 1916 were so smooth and real. The character development and changes in opinion for both teenager and aunt were portrayed in such a clever way that all could relate to. The students were also impressed and wanted to look at the changes in the characters when we got back to school. This play really paid tribute to not just to WW1, but to all our service men and woman both past and present. It really related to what we had been doing in class as a result of our work on the centenary of WW1. It echoed my message to the students that we do not celebrate Remembrance day but rather pay tribute and commemorate the sacrifices that were made. Congratulations to all involved.

—Grade 6 Teacher

Having the returned serviceman at the show to answer questions was fantastic - a real privilege

—Grade 8 Teacher

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Reviews from teachers and young people attending the performance

The Unknown Soldier is… a moving two-hander, examining dark themes including the horror of war and the devastating impact of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder without shying away from their seriousness but handling them with a light touch.

The Unknown Soldier[‘s]… essential beauty lies in an intricate, tight weaving of relevancies between present day Australia and a French battlefield in 1916. It articulates stories from past and present with an honest juxtaposition of physical and emotional conflicts… The Unknown Soldier is a beautifully executed sharing of war and family experiences both past and present. It is a worthwhile anniversary addition to the theatrical canon in this topic area.

The Unknown Soldier, for both the children and the adults in the audience I was with, was an involving story that kept us in a thrall of emotional and educational learning. Connecting the tragedy of the World War 1 experiences and arcing it to our present, participatory war zones, e.g. Afghanistan, and the tragedy of loss and the living violence that our veterans suffer around us today, is particularly apt, and gives us, as it does young Charlie, in the story, pause, to the romantic embracing of the ‘games of war’ on our television, cinema screens and computers. This gentle play respectful of the past gently brings -places – our consciousness to the present. Monkey Baa, with The Unknown Soldier, fulfils its brief magnificently for their young audience, the adults of the future.

The Unknown Soldier is a powerfully moving work that helps modern audiences make sense of war, old and new. To quote Eldridge’s words, whilst “All wars are awful”, understanding that soldiers “don’t fight because they hate what is in front of them, they fight because he loves what is behind him” is a powerful message to understand why people still feel compelled to fight. This work…. is an important piece for people of all ages; from school students through to adults as it develop an understanding of the past to help shape views for the future.

Sandra Eldridge, both writer and performer of The Unknown Soldier, takes a part of history and places it into a modern day setting, providing a better platform to understand the circumstances of war. For a production that has a two man cast (Sandra Eldridge playing Aunt Angela and Nurse Grace and Felix Johnson playing both Charlie and Albert), I could not have been more impressed. For me, this production definitely shed a new light on how I had viewed WW1 previously. Although The Unknown Soldier is aimed at a younger audience, it was extremely entertaining, and made an educational experience an enjoyable one. It provides the audience with an experience in which they cannot help but connect with the characters.

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Reviews from Critics

 

Gallery of Past Productions

 

Curriculum Connections

  • Language and Fine Arts: Dramatic Performance, Historical Fiction

  • History & Social Studies: WWI, World Geography

  • Emotional/Social Development: Mental Health & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Compassion, Respect

 

Minimum Technical Requirements

  • Load In Time: 4 hours

  • Crew Needs: 4 multi tasking crew for 4 hours

  • Min. Stage Size: Stage dimensions 20ft Depth x 33ft Width, height: 13.15ft, minimum wing space: 5ft

  • Sound Needs: The Stage Manager operates sound. The operation position should be the standard sound position or at the rear of the auditorium. The production will use the in-house audio console and FOH PA.

  • Load Out Time: 2 hours x 2 crew

 

Outreach and Workshops

Post-show Talk Back with Cast (and/or with a Veteran)

The Cast will lead a Post-Show Talk Back/ Question and Answer session after each performance (approx 10-15 minutes) unless the Presenter requests otherwise in advance. The Talk Back is a very important part of the production experience.

 

Additionally, throughout the Australian performances, Presenters invited a recent veteran to attend each performance and take part in the post show talk back at the end of the performance. Author and Actor Sandra Eldridge facilitated these sessions.

 

If Presenters are wishing to invite a Veteran to a performance to partake in the post-show discussion, please tell the company in advance and note the following:

  • Brief the Veteran fully on the production and its content, particularly its references to PTSD.

  • Openly discuss with the proposed Veteran that young audience members may want to talk about PTSD and/or the veteran’s experience as a soldier.

  • If the Veteran decides to take part in the discussion ask him/her to prepare a brief 2 to 3 minute talk about their relevant/comparative experience as a veteran. This may serve as an inspiration for questions.

  • Please ask the Veteran to arrive at the performance 30 minutes prior to the commencement of the show. It is important they meet and are introduced to the cast, and Sandie will discuss the format for the post show discussion.
     

Sensory Friendly Performances:

This performance is available as a “sensory friendly” or “relaxed” performance if arranged with the company in advance and with specific direction as to what adjustments are necessary for your venue.