ETTIE’S BOYS – Moore Books SA

ETTIE’S BOYS – Moore Books SA

Reveiwed by Richard Lane

July 2014 

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.” 

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