Kokoda conjures a variety of images for people. Writer Peter Maddern’s play Kokoda was an ambitious undertaking, capturing a significant event in Australia’s history and playing it out through a solo theatrical performance.
The story is told through the eyes of Private Morris Powell, played by South Australian local, Jayden Marshall, a young soldier of the 39th Infantry Battalion, a militia unit, or “chocolate soldiers” as they were dismissively called at the time. The unit was formed and raised in just 52 days and after completing only one military exercise they were deployed to New Guinea to fight off the advancing Japanese army.
The script captures the background and history of the young urban men conscripted into militia, with anecdotes of inner city melbourne punctuated with period slang. Jayden’s youthful appearance fitted neatly with his moving depiction of a young man subjected to the horrors of war, emotions switching between bravado, elation, fear, sorrow, anger and boredom. The script also didn’t hesitate to call out the shortcomings of the senior command, the egos and ignorance of Macarthur and Blamey, and their unrealistic expectations and the dysfunctional and disorganised logistics.
The theatre was small, and had no air-conditioning. It was a hot day and the heat captured the feeling of the oppressive jungle, along with the dark stage, greenish lights and smoke. The soundscape was eerie and the use of multimedia showing archival footage at key moments was very effective. If you want to see the human side of this chapter of Australia’s history and a moving and emotional performance, I would recommend checking Kokoda out.
Fringe Review By Jeremy Watkinson
For tickets, show dates and times for Kokoda head to Fringe-Tix.