New Version of The Breaker for Brisbane

New Version of The Breaker for Brisbane

Centenary Theatre Group (Brisbane) presents the premiere production of the revised version of Kenneth Ross’s Breaker Morant from September 14 – 29, 2012.

The play depicts the infamous court martial of Harry 'Breaker' Morant (1864-1902), a drover, balladeer and poet who was executed for war crimes during the Second Boer War (1899-1902).

Morant participated in the killing of several Boer prisoners and a German missionary. Together with six other soldiers, he faced a court martial charged with murder - the three Australians (Morant, Handcock and Witton) were found guilty. Witton’s sentence was life imprisonment; Morant’s and Handcock’s death warrants were apparently signed by the British commander in South Africa Lord Kitchener, although he subsequently denied having done so. Morant’s execution by firing squad in Pretoria Gaol generated controversy which continues to this day.  Harry Harbord Morant did “finish off in style”, according to the official account, refusing to wear the customary blindfold, looking the firing squad square in the eye and requesting, "Shoot straight you bastards and don't make a mess of it." 

Of such stuff are legends built, heroes made, and plays written.   This is a remarkable piece of Australian theatre.

As the production neared, Centenary Theatre Group President Margaret Bell told Stage Whispers:

“As with all productions, it started with an e-mail to the agent of the author – are the rights available and how much are they.

“That led to a phone call from the author himself (“please call me Ken”), who told us that he was currently re-writing and updating the Breaker Morant script and would we like to work from the updated version instead of the original script and if so would we be happy with an e-mailed version rather than a published version of the script when it was complete? We thought about it for – oh - seconds. It’s an Australian classic. We’d be amongst the first to perform it (it’s apparently been updated further since the production at the Seymour Centre). How could we refuse such an offer? We received the new script in May 2012.

“Then the search was on for men (always a challenge in community theatre) and uniforms. We’ve had retired Lieutenant Colonel come in and give the cast a potted history of the Second Boer War.  “We’ve had a retired Warrant Officer (First Class) come in and advise on proper military protocol – saluting, right wheeling, left wheeling and standing at ease. And when you are playing someone who was a real person and not just a character in a play, character development takes on a whole new nuance. Who knew theatre was so educational?

“It’s a privilege to be able to present this Australian classic. All involved in this production have worked very hard to bring it to fruition. And we are very proud of it.”

Breaker Morantplays at Chelmer Community Centre, cnr Queenscroft & Halsbury Streets, Chelmer, from September 15 to 19, 2012.

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