For a country that has never started a war, we have certainly been in our fair share of them over the years. The official history of war paints us a big simple picture. Unfortunately in this big picture version of our history there is never any time to hear about the smaller stories. Ironically it is the smaller stories that can tell us a great deal about that big picture. War Stories is a compelling, informative and highly entertaining look at Australia at War. Through words, a volume of original songs and visual mediums, Darren Coggan presents a production with moments of reflection, tears and laughter.
Many of the songs and stories in the show present the war experiences of those sidelined by the bronzed male ANZAC mythology. Many of the songs were inspired simply by the emotional context. We meet the women who stayed at home to keep the economy working and those who married American servicemen and lost their Australian identities, salute Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who served despite harsh discrimination, learn of the struggle in finding the courage to go over the top of the Gallipoli trenches, discover stories of mateship and humour, and have compassion for those who died on both sides. Its focus is to present both small and personal stories that are outside the big, simple mainstream history of Australian’s at War and to make those chapters of our military history more personal and accessible.
The show is no celebration of war, rather of the spirit of the people involved in it. It is an honest, moving account of Australia’s involvement without being jingoistic, sentimental or simplistic.
Darren Coggan, at just 35 years, has already chalked up a string of awards. He is best known as a country singer, having released four albums in the genre, but he is equally comfortable in musicals and on screen. He has toured extensively with stage shows Grease, Happy Days and Shout, and was chosen to understudy John Farnham as Teen Angel in Grease – the Arena Spectacular. Most recently Darren produced and starred in Peace Train – The Cat Stevens Story to critical and audience acclaim.