Service number: 
52nd Infantry Battalion
Packet number: 
SLSA record number: 
SRG 76/1/1049
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The Red Cross Letters shows the power of words


August 5, 2016 10:13am
Peter Burdon

IF THERE is a greater tragedy than war, it is the dispassionate way in which its stories are so often told, in a world of real-time reporting. A century ago, news of any sort, let alone of a loved one on active service, could take months to arrive. And then for better, or for worse.

Verity Laughton’s The Red Cross Letters draws on a treasure trove of correspondence held in the State Library of South Australia to tell a few stories that burn, sometimes fiercely, with honesty and integrity. The simple turns of phrase of the enlisted men contrast strongly with the brusque formality of official correspondence, a sharp reminder of that the institutionalisation of war is hardly a modern invention.

For an SA audience, there is resonance aplenty. In the first few moments, we hear of the Verco Building, Mr Edments, King William St, and for those with rural roots, of Glencoe West and the Terowie Football Club, who lost more than one member with the death of the brothers Potter.

Andy Packer directs a strong cast of Matt Crook, Lizzy Falkland, Elizabeth Hay and Rory Walker – who no doubt wonders about the soldier of that name whose story is among those told – strongly supported by composer and musician Matthew Gregan, who’s very much a part of the action. The video design by Chris Petridis is outstanding, mainly subtle, but occasionally hugely dramatic.

The Red Cross Letters

Space Theatre

until August 6, regional tour August 20

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