The story takes place between 25 April and 19 May, 1915
Photos by Rebecca Elliott (www.rebeccalynnephotography.com.au/) from the August 2019 State Theatre, Sydney, production of '3 Weeks in Spring'
1. Maundy Thursday (Overture)
The musical opens with war correspondent (and the show’s narrator), Charles Bean, writing his final diary entry before the Australian Imperial Force sets sail for Gallipoli.
2. On With the Show
The "final, fortifying memory" is made at the 1915 Sydney Royal Easter Show, where everyone is revelling in the fun of the fair even as darkness descends over Europe.
"Whenever the Royal Easter Show is in town, the world is a happier place..."
3. Step Right Up
A group of larrikin showmen step forward to entertain the crowd and urge all the men to take shots at targets on a sideshow stall. But as they raise their rifles, the scene changes from Sydney to Gallipoli, and those same men are storming the beach at Anzac Cove.
"Come on, lads, don't be shy, don't let this opportunity pass you by..."
4. Fight On, Push Through
Bean describes the action and ‘interviews’ some of the soldiers as the ANZAC forces realise they have landed at the wrong place, leaving them at the mercy of the Turkish guns.
"Just before 4.30, at the stirrings of dawn..."
5. On the Beach
Eventually, the beachhead at Anzac Cove is secured. As the exhausted and outnumbered soldiers try to rest, Bean spots some stretcher-bearers at work...
"On the beach the stretcher-bearers work, transporting all the broken and the maimed..."
6. Grains of Sand
Bean asks one of the stretcher-bearers, Private John Simpson, to tell his life story. Simpson recalls his colourful past and the twist of fate that has brought him to Gallipoli. He now finds himself on an inescapable path, and vows to save as many "grains of sand" – as many soldiers – as he can.
"In the bush and in the towns I'd be swanning around..."
7. The Longest Haul
Following orders from legendary Australian commander Colonel John Monash, the ANZACs dig in, with a mixture of excitement and trepidation now that "the great adventure" has finally begun.
"We will stand together; shoulder to shoulder we will fight and fall..."
8. Lighten the Mood
As the mood in the trenches darkens, Simpson does his best to keep morale high - to the appreciation of his fellow soldiers.
"If you're shot to pieces and you haven't got long, he will come out to get ya (even resurrect ya) with a positive song..."
9. Two Bullets/This is the News (Part 1)
Bean's newspaper reports are slowly filtering back to the soldiers' loved ones waiting anxiously back in Australia.
"This is the news on the first of May, there's good and bad that I need to say..."
10. Shrapnel Gully Blues
Frustrated at not being able to save as many injured soldiers as he would like, Simpson comes across a little lost donkey - and realises how he can make a big difference.
"Little donkey, can you do me a favour..."
11. What's In A Name?
Simpson and "Duffy" the donkey are the toast of the trenches for their life-saving work.
"God save the bloke with the donk, long live the bloke with the donk..."
12. Ashes to Ashes
But Simpson’s section sergeant - a by-the-book military man - wants to have Simpson court-martialled for acting outside the normal army rules. Monash is forced to step in and, recognising the importance to the soldiers' morale, grants Simpson licence to operate on his own.
"Since it's attention you crave, I've got some coming your way"
13. To and Fro
By sanctioning Simpson's independent actions, questions start to be asked of Monash and his suitability for command.
"How can he know what to do...?"
14. In the Shadows
Monash himself is full of doubts. As he writes home to his wife Hannah, he finds temporary release from the burden of responsibility he bears.
"You're my angel, you will help me find the strength to know..."
15. Mr Churchill
With the action now back in Australia, Hannah leads the mothers, wives, sisters and sweethearts of the soldiers in a heartfelt plea to the man they hold responsible for the carnage at Gallipoli, Winston Churchill. They beg him not to come calling for the few men left at home.
"Mr Churchill, what did you think you were doing? Did you stop to consider the lives you'd ruin...?"
16. Your Country Needs You
But just then along comes a group of seductive recruiting girls, who convince the young men to sign up.
"This is the war to end all wars, you so want to see it..."
17. Curtain Call
Lured to Gallipoli and thrown into battle, the newcomers "take centre stage". With Simpson there to keep them entertained, they feel ready for anything.
"Come on, Johnny Turk, give us your best! You didn't count on the boys from the AIF..."
18. This is the News (Part 2)
Act 2 opens with Bean writing a newspaper report for his readership back in Australia.
"This is the news on the twelfth of May, a fresh assault has been turned away..."
19. They Say
Bean welcomes Monash to a military press conference. Monash uses the opportunity hit back at the "nameless faces" criticising him for the way he's managing things at the front.
"They say I have to stand up to the British, but what would happen if they got their wish...?"
20. I'm A "Hero"!
Monash mentions Simpson in despatches - acknowledging him for his bravery. Simpson (and his mates) find this hilarious.
"My ma will be proud, she'll be singing out loud..."
21. Whatever It Takes
Although amused by his official hero status, Simpson shows why he's worthy of it by bringing a badly injured soldier safely through Shrapnel Gully (via a strange morphine dream).
"We're here to help you realise, you're only in trouble when the laughter dies..."
22. To the Hospital
Simpson sends the injured soldier off to hospital in Egypt with his best wishes.
"Give my love to the nurses - and to the beer..."
23. Bodies and Boys
In a military hospital in Cairo, nurses work to save the broken young men who come to them - or to help them die peacefully.
"The boys who come in and the bodies that leave, sometimes we don't know their names..."
24. Anzac Spirit
Back in the trenches, Bean writes a newspaper article as the soldiers sing of the only thing keeping them going.
"Anzac Spirit now we need you to help us again..."
25. What's the Point?
Exhausted, the soldiers question what they're doing as incessant Turkish attacks are repelled, with no tangible gain for either side.
"Ever wondered what happens when unstoppable force meets immovable object...?"
26. Two Soldiers
But instead of an attack, a truce is proposed - and accepted - so both sides can bury their dead. An Aussie Digger and his Turkish counterpart come face to face.
"So this is how things stand today; two soldiers get to meet halfway..."
27. Seeing Things the Same
In no-man's land, surrounded by dead bodies, the Aussie and Turk realise how much they have in common.
"It's a strange thing to be facing the man I'm meant to hate..."
28. Dead Man's Hand
Amidst the sombre scenes, Simpson still manages to keep spirits high by reminding the soldiers of the old legend of shaking a "dead man's hand" for luck before going into battle.
"The age old secret to invincibility is to pay your respects to necrosity"
29. When's Daddy Coming Home?
Back in Australia, children pray for the return of all they're missing.
"He told me that I should be brave, Lord, but you know that is so hard to do..."
30. We Go At Dawn
Back in Gallipoli, the orders finally come through for the Anzacs to attack the Turkish forces. The soldiers prepare to go over the top - and write their last goodbyes.
"Dead Dad, I don't know where I'll be when you get this letter. If I'll still be alive, or be gone to some place better..."
31. Sunday Stroll
As the battle rages, Simpson and Duffy work harder than ever to bring wounded men out of danger - apparently immune to the chaos and carnage around them.
"It's a lovely day for a Sunday stroll, but there's no point going out alone..."
But finally, inevitably, Simpson's luck runs out in a burst of machine-gun fire. With Bean providing the commentary, Simpson’s fellow soldiers carry him to his grave.
"Every move the soldiers make, every triumph, every wake; it is all propaganda, unless viewed with real candour..."
33. 100 Years
And as Monash delivers the eulogy by Simpson's grave, the ghosts from the past rise and ask whether they will be remembered.
"Will we be recalled as mere names on a wall or will our deeds live on...?"