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Mark Wright’s deft touch and clever dialogue makes The Gallipoli Monologues a show not to miss. Photo: KELLEY TANTAU

Gallipoli play earns emotional applause

Mark Wright is a war veteran, a lieutenant colonel, an army doctor, a beloved son.
Each symbolised by a different piece of headwear, the characters are more than just a monologue on a stage. They are more than just stories and words, however poignant; they are people.
The actor, who has starred in almost 40 different television series including What Now and Shortland Street, was performing his one-man play The Gallipoli Monologues on August 13.
The venue for the intimate matinee, the Paeroa Little Theatre, transformed into a foxhole, barracks, and a hospital wing. In the centre of it all sat a hat rack, and on the rack were nine hats, representing a different character of Mark’s monologues.
But “character” almost seems too weak of a word.
Inspired by real-life stories, the men who were revealed on-stage not only gave an insight into who they were and what they were doing, they also spoke of others like them, others who may not have been as lucky; others who may be missing them back home.
You mourn for them, you grieve with them, but in almost the same breath, you smile at them.
With a deft hand, Mark balances the sombre stories with humour. From the out-of-touch British Army general, the glass-half-full Aussie reciting poetry, and the recognisable Kiwi who brings light in dark times, the dialogue of each monologue is expertly crafted.
The actor’s quivering lip, shaky-yet-clear speech, and tearful eyes are a showcase of how good theatre can provide more than just a 90-minute injection of entertainment. It can engage and educate, perhaps even more so than modern blockbusters that attract millions and earn just as much.
Mark has a passion for the self-driven project. The self-confessed “amateur historian” fronted a 2014 documentary series which saw him complete a “life-long dream” by travelling to Gallipoli and the Anzac Cove in Turkey.
His great-grandfather was the proprietor of the Rob Roy Hotel in Waihī, while two of his great uncle’s served in Gallipoli, returning to New Zealand injured and dying shortly after World War I due to complications from their wounds.
It is perhaps this respect and awareness of his characters that makes The Gallipoli Monologues a show to watch.
It requires no prerequisites of knowledge, just a willingness to absorb.
The play was created after Mark, hosting an adults acting workshop in 2021, performed an off-the-cuff monologue inspired by World War I. The performance was well-received, with audience-members encouraging Mark to turn it into a play. It had its premiere in Waihī on June 11 this year.
Mark said he was planning to keep the show on the road, so if you see a man with nine hats, take a seat.