A nurse’s pespective

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Abbie Gallagher has a Diploma of Music Theatre from the Australian Institute of Music where she performed in productions of RENT, The Laramie Project, Henry V and was in the original workshop cast of King of the Air. She has also trained at the Actor's Centre Australia, Sydney Actor's Association, The Actor's Co-Op, and the Performance Studio, and is currently a member of PYT Fairfield's 2019 ensemble. She has performed as Wendla in Spring Awakening (Factory Theatre), in Hercules Saves Christmas (Megara), The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Marcy Park), Little Shop of Horrors (Riverside Theatres), Seussical, the 2016 ‘National Theatre in Education’ tour, Valentine’s Day (Short + Sweet Finals 2018) Bex Wild in Whitewash (Bohemia Theatre) in 2018, reprised the role as Bex in the Short + Sweet 2019 finals, and she will reprise the role again in the upcoming film adaptation. She is also set to be part of the original work Kallestei for the 2019 Sydney Fringe Festival. Her film credits include Straight Cut (2015), The Fold (2016), Three Way (2018), and the award-winning web series After Nightfall Season 2.

Here Abbie talks about her role of Staff Nurse Charlotte Dean in 3 Weeks in Spring and what it is like to be a part of the production:

I saw the audition brief for 3 Weeks in Spring on a Facebook casting group and remembered a classmate at AIM telling me he was in the workshop cast in 2011. Then a dear friend and mentor encouraged me to audition even though I hadn't done a musical since 2016! I'm a huge history nut, especially war history, so this show seemed like a great opportunity to get more Australian stories out there in an industry which doesn't often allow for that. My main reason for auditioning though, was for my great-grandfather. He fought in the Somme at the age of 19 and miraculously survived. We still have postcards he sent to his mother in 1916 and while he didn't speak of the war much, we know a few things he went through, and history is pretty indicative of his experiences. I wanted to audition to honour his memory, the memory of everyone who lived through WW1, and also of those who did not.

3 Weeks in Spring is very much a rock opera of the Gallipoli campaign in which we see the story from every possible perspective – the idealistic volunteers and career soldiers in the trenches, the women and children left behind, the opposing army, the generals, the recruiters, it's all here. I think that's important. We all know there's multiple sides to every story, and in the case of WW1, it was about as complex as you can get. The show is about ordinary people who found themselves in a terrible reality, how they rose to the occasion (so to speak) and ended up doing some extraordinary things.

Like I said, I'm crazy for history and war history is a passion so I knew quite a bit before I started working on the production. Gallipoli was an incredibly tragic story for all involved. Gallipoli was beyond disastrous and really had no purpose outside of starting a new front, which was never going to end well, so none of that surprised me, nor did the conditions of the trenches. However, I was not aware that Simpson and his donkey only worked together for three and a half weeks. Somehow that detail missed me, and I was shocked to learn this. I guess I just zoned out at that moment in primary school.

Honestly, it's been so wonderful to finally do another musical, and something new! Professionally I've learned a lot about trust and being faithful to the text, especially since we're dealing with history. These were real people, ordinary people who were thrown into impossible circumstances, and had to find any way they could to get through it. The character of Charlotte Dean who I play is fictitious in the sense that I can't find records of a nurse with that exact name. She's a young volunteer nurse stationed in Egypt, wanting to do her bit for the country but she finds herself in a horrific situation that she was never prepared for. I don't think it's something she would have ever been able to forget. Even though I'm not actually playing a real person, I feel that the nurses are often left out of the story so I’m pleased to be able to bring their story to life. They saw the gruesome reality of war that the soldiers did, but in a different way.

There are so many great moments in the show, like the opening at the Easter Show, the transition to ANZAC Cove and the closing number, but by far my favourite part of the show is the last quarter of Act 1. There's a magnificent duet between Monash and his wife Hannah, which then transitions to how the women are dealing with things on the home front. The whole show seems to take a breath, slow down, and allow the atmosphere and consequences to hit home.

I think audiences will leave the show humming the music (the score is one of the best I've ever heard!) and also feeling like they've seen the Gallipoli campaign humanised. As Peter Jackson said for his film They Shall Not Grow Old, WWI feels foreign to us because all we can see of it is 12-frames per second black and white footage and posed photographs. But that wasn't how the people at the time saw it. Hopefully the audience will recognise the weight of what happened, and they might want to learn more. As they say, those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

Come see the show! 3 Weeks in Spring is a 13-year labour of love and needs to be witnessed in the majestic State Theatre.

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