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A Smoke Social

During WWI top end soldiers were forced to travel interstate to enlist – but they didn’t leave town without a party to say farewell. 

By Tamara Howie

In those days the parties were called smoke socials, and theatregoers will experience what the events were like first-hand in the latest work by playwright Sandra Thibodeaux.
A Smoke Social will be performed in the same venue as the original soirees – the Town Hall Ruins.

“As you enter the ruins, you’re in the play,” Thibodeaux says.

“During these events they would obviously smoke and drink and would have songs, poetry readings, comedy acts – we’ve added a couple of magic tricks and skits.

“It was all about having a party to say goodbye to the guys going off to war.”

Thibodeaux secured ANZAC federal funding for the play and then faced the challenge of finding a new angle to explore.

“The narrative was a tricky one because WWI is a hard one to  cover,” she says.

“You can’t put a good spin on it – it was a stupid war and resulted  in the useless death of millions  of people.

“How could I do something interesting that would be worth-while, that hasn’t been done before?”

Thibodeaux wanted to capture  the essence of the era – the advent of AFL, the rise of workers’ and women’s rights, Darwin’s brass bands and the role of Indigenous soldiers.
She researched many of the real-life experiences of Territory and Australian soldiers to piece together a new narrative.

“I’ve got two brothers from Darwin – one Indigenous, one non-Indigenous – and they both wind up in Palestine. They’ve been split up from their company and holed up in this bunker,” Thibodeaux says.

“They meet a beautiful mysterious woman – there’s a bit of a love story in there and we keep flicking between Darwin and Palestine and eventually the two worlds merge and blend and you don’t know where you are anymore.”

Thu 21 – Sat 30 Jun | 7pm | Town Hall Ruins | See the event listing

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