Dookie’s tribute

April 07, 2018

Wendy Platt, Wendy Russell and Jo Burgess in character at Dookie.

Shepparton Theatre Arts Group’s Dookie The Musical will fittingly open this Anzac Day, April 25.

The musical has been adapted from the 2016 play Dookie, written by John Head, and STAG cast has been busy rehearsing since mid-January.

Director Casey Fogarty said the musical centred around the character of Dean who was returning home to Dookie from serving in Afghanistan. He brought his war-mate Steve along with him and the musical explored the struggles faced by returned soldiers in the small town.

Shepparton’s Connor McDonald, who plays Steve, said it had been challenging reaching the depths of emotion experienced by the character who had lost two mates while serving.

‘‘Steve is very much a character that... is an example of those who return from war.’’

Ms Fogarty said they had been working alongside the Goulburn Valley Concert Orchestra which had added another complexity to staging the show.

‘‘It has been great to work in partnership with the GV Concert Orchestra,’’ she said.

‘‘Any time you bring an entire orchestra on stage there are challenges but I think we’ve overcome them well.’’

Ms Fogarty said there would be a mixture of familiar STAG faces as well as new actors.

‘‘We’ve got some STAG icons in Matt Dowling, who plays Bill, and Nicky Pummeroy, who plays Sally, the co-owner of The Emporium.’’

Dookie The Musical runs from Wednesday, April 25, to Saturday, April 28, at Riverlinks Westside, Echuca Rd, Mooroopna. For more information, visit http://riverlinksvenues.com.au

Putting a small town on stage

Dookie’s Gladstone Hotel, characterised by its beautiful and striking fretwork, will be just one of the many recognisable aspects of the town when Shepparton Theatre Arts Group stages Dookie The Musical this month.
The town hall and The Emporium will be among the places explored by the characters when the show opens on Anzac Day.
Originally written by John Head and staged as a play in 2016, Shepparton’s creative minds came together to create the musical adaptation.
‘‘I have written a few short and longer plays so I always have my eyes open for stories that interest me,’’ Mr Head said.
Wanting to write a play that encompassed the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the Anzacs, Mr Head decided he would create a show surrounding the theme of returned soldiers.
‘‘I looked at the Dookie memorial and their honour roll,’’ Mr Head said, which prompted the beginning of Dookie.
Dookie The Musical director Casey Fogarty explained how the play progressed into a musical.
‘‘STAG’s musical director Wade Gregory played the lead character of Dean in the play,’’ she said.
‘‘Instead of learning his lines, songs would come into his head.’’
Mr Gregory, Mr Head, STAG’s Helen Rankin and Ms Fogarty put their heads together and adapted the play.
‘‘It has been refined considerably,’’ Mr Head said.
The musical centres around lead character Dean (played by Jayden Yosh), who is returning home to Dookie after serving in Afghanistan. He brings fellow solider Steve Williams (Connor McDonald) with him.
‘‘Steve has no family and that’s why he’s come back to Dookie,’’ Mr McDonald explained.
He said it had been challenging to reach the deep emotions expressed by the character who has lost two of his mates while serving — although these are hidden under a shield of bravado.
‘‘When he does bring out those (emotional) parts when he’s reflecting on war times and his mates’ passing — to express that emotion you’ve really got to prepare yourself,’’ he said.
Firstly the play, and now the musical, heavily focus on current issues of returned soldiers and post-traumatic stress disorder — as well as the theme of small communities and their ability to support and heal others.
‘‘Obviously it’s a huge issue,’’ Mr Head said.
‘‘The amount of soldiers dying overseas is less but the amount of soldiers who die as a result of self-harm is increasing.
‘‘This play does focus on PTSD — we talk about all the effects and side-effects of what war does to the world and how small communities like Dookie can help soldiers.’’
Mr Head said an important aspect of the entire project had been paying their respects to the men listed on the honour roll in Dookie, who lost their lives serving in World War I.
‘‘I started doing early research so we cold use it as part of the play,’’ he said.
‘‘A book has come out of it.’’
Researchers Helen Rankin and Di Feldtmann launched their book Dookie — Remembering the Fallen 100 Years On at the township’s Australia Day celebrations this year, which includes the stories of the men on the memorial.
‘‘One of the most important parts is that we are remembering and giving them the honour they deserve,’’ Mr Head said.

Tickets are selling fast and are available at Riverlinks box office, costing $40, $35 for concession and $25 for under-16 years.

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