Reveiwed by Richard Lane
Ettie Rout was reviled in her homeland and lauded in Paris for her work as a campaigner against sexually transmitted diseases amongst the young soldiers during World War 1. Ettie founded the New Zealand Volunteer Nursing Sisterhood which, by the compulsory use of her safe sex kit, helped the young soldiers prevent the spread of STD during World War 1 .
Ian McGrath’s documentary-style play Ettie’s Boys records Rout’s wartime efforts and presents her almost as a heroine.
Tony Moore’s direction documents the indefatigable Ettie through her efforts to end the nonsense that sexual abstinence was the only way to prevent STD.
Working on a minimalist stage, Tony’s sensitive production focuses to a large extent on Ettie’s relationship with “her boys,” her fights with authorities and the pertaining WW1 hypocrisy. There were countless scenes throughout and they were handled cleverly by Mr Moore, mainly by the use of lighting. The operation of audio visual superscripts also informed time and place.
Actors played multiple roles, each change often simply indicated by the donning of a hat.
Joanna Webb handled the prodigious role of Ettie with great passion, sensitivity, and fire. A remarkable performance. Ian Herridge played Fred with much bombast which at times muddled his delivery. As the Egyptian Willie, Brian Godfrey did not always convince , but as Nick, Adrian Gruszka demonstrated his sensibility towards Ettie with aplomb .
Maxine Harding played strongly in her various roles, and Stephen Jeffery as Teddy and Jabez Retallick as Jim, were two soldiers looking the part but needing some work on their diction and voice production.
Ettie’s Boys is another very worthwhile project by Tony Moore at Holden Street and his production rightly came down on the side of Ettie, not as “the wickedest woman” but: as a “guardian angel.”