Saturday, 30 July 2011


It has been amazing to see just how committed the five actors are to this project. They have wonderful focus, an energy that is infectious and seem to know their characters and the journey of the play intimately. It is wonderful to just sit and watch; to observe Candy, Jacinta, Naomi, Mel and Jodie as they convey the emotional struggle of Ishtar, the past that Jade tries to hide, the sadness of Jordan’s story, the complexities imbedded in Samira’s character, the dominating power of Lara and Ricky...
This play has so many issues but at its heart seems to be these characters who are trying to decide who they are and who they want to be, in a rapidly changing, and often terrifying and confusing world.

Friday, 29 July 2011



Presented by Leticia Caceres, Master of Dramatic Art - Direction (by Research)


Written by Angela Betzien
Directed by Leticia Caceres

What do you do when your country is at war, your town is at war, your friends are at war and there's a war inside your head? You run. One morning Jade wakes bruised and bleeding on the beach. She thinks she's alone, that no one will know, but someone is watching from the cave above the cliffs.

In 2007, in response to a spate of attacks on war memorials in towns and cities across Australia, a war memorial legislation amendment bill was proposed in parliament, increasing penalties for vandalising, defacing, deliberately damaging or behaving inappropriately around war memorials. While the bill was not passed, it inflamed debate over the ANZAC legend and sparked a call for a resurgence of pride in this national story.
War Crimes was created in response to this and several other real contemporary Australian events, with the intention of stirring up some big questions about our national history, identity and future. Importantly, it raises the question of what is sacred to us as a nation?

Creative Team
Set and Costume Design: Tanja Beer

Composer: Pete Goodwin

Lighting Design: Lisa Mibus

Producer: Laura Milke Garner


Candy Bowers

Jodie Le Vesconte

Naomi Rukavina

Jacinta Yelland

Melanie Zanetti
Performance Times:
Wednesday 17 August, 7:30pm
Thursday 18 August, 7:30pm
Friday 19 August, 7:30pm
Venue: Post Graduate Studio,
VCA School of Performing Arts,
28 Dodds Street, Southbank
Duration: 70 minutes, no interval
Cost: Free Admission

Thursday, 28 July 2011

War Crimes
Set in a regional coastal town, War Crimes tells a powerful story of five disenfranchised young women who are fighting for respect, railing against authority and struggling to form an identity in a small town with limited opportunities. The relocation of an Iraqi refugee family to the town provokes a climate of hostility and tension that threatens to violently explode. 
War Crimes continues Real TV’s trademark technique of using real events as pretexts for the creation of relevant and provocative contemporary Australian drama. In 2007 a series of attacks on War Memorials incited a frenzy on talk back radio and raised provocative questions about young Australians attitudes to war, to tradition, to national identity and to the notion of the sacred. 
War Crimes features the beach as its central motif and references landmark historical events such as the Cronulla riots and the ANZAC story to interrogate race and gender relations in contemporary Australia. The work draws correlations between the local and the global, between violence against women and our culture of masculinity and mateship. How does powerlessness breed a hatred of “the other” and what role do government and the media play in perpetuating xenophobia and misogyny in our community?
Co-commissioned by the Sydney Opera House Education and Regional Arts Victoria, arts2GO.
War Crimes has been selected for inclusion on the 2011 VCE Drama & Theatre Studies Playlist, which relates to the successful completion of Unit 4, Outcome 3.
Please note: War Crimes is recommended for students in years 9 to 12 and contains moderate impact coarse language and strong themes.
Director: Leticia Caceres
Writer: Angela Betzien
Composer: Pete Goodwin
Designer: Tanja Beer

Artform: Drama
Key Themes: Racism, Isolation, Adolescence, Rebellion
Specific VELS:
Personal Learning - Managing Personal Learning
Civics and Citizenship - Civic Knowledge and Understanding
The Arts - Exploring and Responding
English - Speaking and Listening
LOTE - Intercultural Knowledge and Understanding
Humanities - Historical Knowledge and Understanding
Communication - Listening, Viewing and Responding
Thinking - ALL
VCE Links:
Drama - Unit 2 and 3 - Australian Drama, non-Naturalism, Stagecraft
Theatre Studies - Unit 2, 3 and 4 - non-Naturalism, Stagecraft, Character Creation
English Language - Unit 4 - Spoken English Texts
Philosophy - Unit 1 and 2 - Contemporary debate, Ethical Problems
History - Unit 1 and 4 - Community Heritage, Crisis and Conflict, Changing Attitudes in Australian reactions
Texts and Traditions - Unit 2 - Justice, Racism and Gender Roles

Interview: Angela Betzien

1. What inspired you to write "War Crimes"?

I was inspired by a real event that caused quite a stir in a regional town a few years ago. This was the story of five girls who desecrated a war memorial on the eve of ANZAC day with anti-war slogans.  I was also inspired by a project that my colleagues were working on in collaboration with young teenage girls living in Shepparton. I realized the stories of girls like these weren’t often told and I wanted to do something about that.

2. Which true stories are events/characters in the play based on?

While the real event was the inspiration for War Crimes I didn’t seek to research the particular case, rather I was interested in creating a completely fictional narrative. None of the characters in the play are based on real people.

3. Could you explain (in a nutshell!) your interpretation of each of the characters?

Jade, the protagonist of the play, is a born leader. She thinks she  can handle anything and anyone. Jade has lived in this town her entire life but she has dreams of escape, of becoming something more than a poorly paid worker at the local abattoir.  

Jordan is a really confused foster kid. She’s completely disconnected from her family and culture.  She has never felt safe or protected and she has a history of violence and substance abuse. She is also struggling to come to terms with her sexual identity.

Lara has always been Jade’s best friend. They’ve grown up together but unlike Jade, Lara can’t imagine a life outside the country town. Lara’s got problems at home and she’s angry at the world. Lara takes this anger out on anyone who is different or who she perceives as a threat to her group of friends.

Rick is a follower. She doesn’t do well at school. She’d jump off a cliff if Lara or Jade told her too. Poor Ricky just wants the gang to stay together.

Ishtar is only sixteen but she’s already accrued a lifetime of experience fleeing a war torn country and spending her early child hood in a refugee camp. Ishtar is torn between wanting to be like everyone else at her school and the great expectations of her family and culture.
4. How do you think students will respond to the play and the issues raised?

I hope that students will be challenged by this play. If a story doesn’t confront and challenge than I don’t think it’s really worth telling. There are loads of issues imbedded in this play and it may take awhile to sort through all these, but hopefully this will lead to some healthy debate and critical thinking. I also hope students will also enjoy the action packed storytelling. I don’t want this production to be boring at any time. Theatre should be thrilling, full on, in your face.

5. What issues do you think are at the heart of this play?

There are loads of issues in the play: violence, sexuality, rape, racism, war… the list goes on.

At the heart of the play though are the themes of betrayal, loyalty and belonging.

6. Do you have a favourite moment in the script?

My favourite moment in the play is when Jordan spray paints the cave with handprints using some ochre coloured aerosols. She does this as a gift to Jade, as an apology for her betrayal. When Jade rejects the offer, accusing Jordan of desecrating the sacred place, Jordan is devastated and spirals into a dark and violent state.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Run Through...

·         Smooth transitions – use of set very effective and the way the large box serves many different roles throughout the play, used in a variety of ways
·         Commentary by the characters – translates really well to stage from the script; Lara and Ricky’s use of rhyme
·         Cave – sacred place
o   Jordan’s apparent carelessness for the place; leaning, biting nails, talking in a monotone
o   Jade – angry, confrontational, fierce – way of hiding her feelings
o   Jade and Jordan – same sitting position; their physicality similar, emphasises their connection
·         Physical distance between actors e.g. Lara’s apology – Jade and Lara at opposite sides of the stage
·         There was a really effective moment of blocking – Mel running around the stage in a circle, around the statue, as the scene changed
·         Mel’s second monologue – slow guitar, running – a seamless scene change
·         Great juxtaposition between Mel’s higher pitch, emotional voice and Naomi’s monotone
·         The scene between Jade and Ishtar in the cave was beautifully expressed – Go Mel and Jacinta!
              ·       Jordan
o   Naomi’s hair – tied back, enhances Jordan’s ‘androgynous’ look
o   Pants – scuffed, frayed
·         Jade
o   Importance of shoes – Jade runs

·         Reactions – Ishtar to the police; Jacinta needing to be more fearful, more uncertain as she gazes out towards audience
·         Jacinta needs to stay on stage at the end of the play, as Ishtar and Jade simultaneously say, “Home”
·         Cave scene between Jade and Ishtar – Mel looking more intently at the handprints – convey Jade’s guilt about what has happened
Polishing scenes...
Cast worked on the nightclub scene and tried to add details and nuances to each moment in the scene.
Lara cutting off Ricky – highlight who is in the position of power; Lara won’t even let Ricky speak or act for herself.
In the opening scene of the play, when Lara threatens to reveal the story, there needs to be a greater moment of dramatic tension. This will suggest that what Jade is about to expose, is dangerous, a big secret.
The Kings – talking as one, a collective, lack of individuality, movement and voice same as each other.
Lara, Ricky, Jade and Ishtar stand across front of stage during some of the ‘commentary’ scenes. They stand in line as through having an interview. Jade is in the middle, caught between the two extremes; Lara and Ishtar. How does she react to each character and what is being said on either side of her?
SFX – transition into first scene between Samira and Ishtar – actors putting on hijabs slowly.
Jacinta having to react even more strongly to Lara’s continuous calls of “refo”.
The cast felt that a glass smash SFX was important to further heighten the tension in the scene with the pig’s head. The SFX would also help to explain that something is being thrown through the window.
In this scene, Candy is on the floor in front of the boxes, the soldiers are behind the boxes, they flip the large box to make the cave – Ishtar leads Samira off as Jade and Jordan run into the cave. Lovely continuity of scene.
Apology scene between Lara and Jade. Candy and Mel stand on opposite sides of stage. Scene is awkward, tense, the dialogue is thrown back and forth. Lara is intimidated by Jade. They move closer together then apart, closer together then apart. A power struggle once again!

Friday, 22 July 2011

Movement Rehearsal...

Cast continued rehearsing the movement sequence with the boxes.
·  Large box – Mel inside
·  Rest of soldiers behind box
·  Climb over top of box, open box, Jodie lifts Mel out and puts her on the ground
·  Each soldier takes a smaller box out of the larger box which they place on the ground; Jacinta and Jodie with the smaller boxes and Candy and Naomi with the bigger boxes
·  Soldiers spins boxes on the ground
·  Mel gets into the box Naomi is carrying
·  Cast rehearsed the RSL scene.
·  Use of the “yobos” SFX.
·  “Kings” – hats to the side, scarf over mouths – anarchy, chaos when they throw the pig’s head through Samira’s window.
·  Samira cowering in front of the boxes whilst the Kings run around the space; crazy, animalistic, wild movements
· Leticia – suggested that the Kings practise ways of throwing the boxes; tossing them, slamming them down – when the last box has been placed, this indicates that the pig’s head has been thrown through the window and should elicit taunting, yelling and wolfing from the Kings
·  Which of the Kings will be the one to throw the pig’s head through the window? – Jodie
·  Effective transition between scenes – RSL – Kings – Box formation around Samira – “No one is coming...we’re safe here” – such a poignant scene
 ·  Suggested that it would be even more powerful if Ishtar was to respond to her mother in  Arabic in order to control her mother’s fears, to reassure her
·  Soldiers hiding behind the boxes – how to stand? Loom over the scene but don’t want to pull focus from the emotional scene between Samira and Ishtar
·  Leticia also altered Mel and Naomi’s transition into the Kings characters – Jade says, “Let’s run”, then the two of them freeze – then they put on the scarves and move to the next scene

Movement Rehearsal: Boxes Formation