PTSD play looks at veterans’ lives

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Peter Finlay and Joanne Davis as Frank and Trish in “Foxholes of the Mind”.

WITH the recent announcement of a Royal Commission into veterans’ suicide, the message of a play coming to the Courtyard Studio this week seems apposite.

“Foxholes of the Mind”, by Bernard Clancy, premiered at La Mama theatre in Melbourne back in 2010 to packed houses and toured regional Victoria in 2016.

Now it’s on tour in an initiative funded by the Australian government Department of Social Services and was setting up in the Courtyard Studio today (May 11).

With elements of tragedy, a complex plot and black humour, the play holds a message of hope and strength which the playwright believes can assist veterans and family members to step forward and seek help as it looks into the lives of Vietnam veteran Frank and his wife Trish, 30 years after the war.

Frank and his mates are cracking under the strain of post-traumatic stress disorder while Trish treads on eggshells. Through a simple, suburban story it’s revealed how war and its long-term fall-out have distorted their lives and those of the people around them. In a twist, Frank agrees to participate in a group therapy program – but it may be too late.

Playwright Clancy, a Vietnam veteran, author of the novel “Best We Forget” and the comedy “The Zipper”, says, “if the play prompts just one veteran, police member, nurse, firey or ambo with PTSD to seek help, then I’ll be very happy indeed”.

The play is directed by Wolf Heidecker whose production company, “WHAM”, is the producer on behalf of the Geelong sub-branch of the Vietnam Veterans’ Association of Australia.

The cast includes Joanne Davis, Adrian Mulraney, Maureen Hartley, Victor Gralak, David Lih and Peter Finlay, whose brother fought in the battle of Long Tan and developed late onset PTSD.

Finlay said that experience had helped him draw inspiration and meaning for the role of Frank.

“We know we are having an impact because we see people crying after or during the show,” he said.

“The first time we did it in its second season, one guy stood up and said, ‘that was me’.”

“Foxholes of the Mind”, Courtyard Studio, Canberra Theatre Centre, May 12-14. Book here  or 6275 2700.

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Helen Musa
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