THEATRE – The Lost WW1 Diary – Damian Callinan – 5K

By Peter Maddern

The 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings has spawned an industry of its own this year, much of it, to be fair, meritorious with Deadline Gallipoli the moving image pick and Peter Rees’ biography of Charles Bean Bearing Witness maybe the best book. Damian Callinan, a more than capable comedian from Melbourne, has chosen a particularly courageous approach with his ‘dramedy’ The Lost World War I Diary.

I say courageous because mixing humour with horror, especially based on a story characterised by national loss, can be a fraught approach but Callinan more than skilfully plots his way through a tale that starts in Warrnambool, with his happening upon a war diary in a local op-shop, and also ends there as that book’s author returns home from bearing his own witness and participation in the build-up to and endurance of six months in Turkey.

This 75 minutes may not only be the best thing you have seen about World War I this year but also the best comedy as well. Callinan wit, observations and sentiments are razor sharp. He takes us back to another world when mateship existed, when community meant going to war together (and not ending at sharing a hashtag) and when the Australian personality was forged in survival and commitment. His sense of that time as well as his delightful characterisations are both believable and beyond the cliché. Yet, his asides about the modern day, the quirks of this town and members of the audience will also long stay with you.

In short, this show is quite superb.

Kryztoff Rating        5K

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