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Background

'The Lost WW1 Diary' was created in early 2014 as a co-production with the 'Lighthouse Theatre' in Warrnambool, Victoria. The show debuted at MICF 2014 at ACMI with a mid season run of shows in Warrnambool. The Lighthouse Theatre provided the creative team [Damian Callinan and director Tim Overton] with accommodation and a rehearsal venue to develop the show in the area. As a result Callinan focused the writing on characters from the 1st AIF, 7th Battalion that drew it's enlistment from the men of Western Victoria. All the dates and events have been researched from the 7th Battalion history 'Our Dear Old Battalion' but the characters depicted are fictional. The battalion's insignia was 'Brown over Red' and they were nicknamed 'Mud Over Blood. Callinan spent months reading and researching many war diaries, biographies and relevant texts before putting pen to paper.

Written with a view to touring throughout the 2015 Gallipolli anniversary, the show has proven to be one of Callinan's most successful shows to date with multiple 5 star reviews and a nomination for Best Comedy at Perth Fringe.

Synopsis

Obsessed from a young age by the Anzac legend and intrigued by the mystery surrounding the identity of two diggers from a family photo, Damian sets out on a quest to put names to the faces. Whilst holidaying in Warrnambool, a series of curious events lead him to the discovery of a war diary in an op-shop that may finally link him to the legend.

Callinan brings to life the pages of the diary as we meet Paddy Callinan and his ‘push’ as they set off for ‘The Big Show. Along the way we meet Stanza the prankster poet, Bluey the outspoken union leader, Mocka the mumbling ladies’ man, Depot the scrounger and Pirate whose ability to talk could be the weapon that turns the war.

Callinan combines detailed research, hilarious but believable characterisations, black humour, absurdity and deft writing to swing the mood of the story from rollicking farce to aching pathos in a heartbeat.

Actual events are woven into the tapestry of the narrative to put a new spin on history: Depot sells a pantomime donkey costume to Simpson, the lads give a scathing review of a German painting found in a trench attributed to a Corporal Adolf H and a game of cricket in the trenches leads to the first trans-Tasman underarm bowling incident.

The Lost WW1 Diary is fresh take on the generation who travelled across the world to war and discovered that it’s a long way to Tipperary without a GPS.

REVIEWS

Review 1 - Katie Spain - Adelaide Advertiser - March 2015

Some performances move you with such force they’re in your thoughts well after the theatre lights dim and you’ve left the venue. This is one of them.

Comedian Damian Callinan delivers a laugh-packed show about a very serious topic — war. Based on the discovery of a diary in a Warrnambool op-shop, it is the story of Paddy, a young Australian who sets off to serve in World War One.

His journey broaches rocky waters, the blood-soaked shore of Gallipoli, loss, love and the endearing larrikin nature of young lads far from home.

Callinan moves between soldiers with convincing characterisation, deft use of black humour and an impressive collection of vintage headgear.
His self-confessed obsession with war, deep respect for the Anzacs and extensive research make this a respectful tribute to history and those lost. Audience interaction is faultless.

We laughed, we gasped and wiped tears from our eyes. Memorable, moving, brilliant.

5 stars

Review 2 - Claire Condry - Australian Stage

Most people know accomplished stand-up comedian Damian Callinan as a frequently seen guest on tv shows like Skithouse and Spicks and Specks.

I fervently hope that the title and content of his one man show does not deter audience members. What could possibly be funny about World War 1? Amazingly there is plenty to laugh about. This is a brilliantly written and wonderfully performed show from Callinan.

After a clever introduction on the set of a war time movie he progresses to the op-shop discovery of the diary. As he narrates parts of the days and years of war service Callinan assumes the persona of the diarist and the characters of the army mates in his “push”.

There’s been a lot of attention given to World War 1 with the Anzac Gallipoli 100 year anniversary this year. This work is the best tribute to those events I have seen. The Australian larrikin sense of humour and deadpan comedy is so real and familiar.

The story follows the progress of the country boy volunteer through departure by sea, action in the Turkish battlefield, repatriation to a London hospital for the wounded, service in France and finally his return to home.

Obviously there are moments of pathos as well as the hilarious characterisations of the scurrilous crew. Callinan reveals fine acting skills as well as the peerless comic timing for which he is known.

Dressed in simple period army attire with a couple of khaki draped seats he worked the tented theatre impeccably, even cajoling some audience members to become whales during the long sea voyages. They loved it. The audience adored it.

Spontaneous applause broke out at minor triumphs and particularly droll conversations between the men. There was the crack shooting best mate since childhood, a Scottish union organizer, an opportunistic light fingered rogue, a garrulous cloud watcher, officer types and even a ”poofter” in the corps.

I can’t imagine a more accurate portrayal of the Aussie digger’s ability to adopt a laconic manner and laugh at the toughest of times.

This show is a highlight in an excellent array of world class shows at the 2015 Fringe World.

5 stars plus.

Don’t miss it!

Review 3 - Lisa Harper-Campbell - Radio Adelaide

Clear your diaries and make sure you see this show. Callinan, a veteran of Australian sketch comedy delivers a masterclass of comedic storytelling.

‘The Lost WWI Diary’ is the perfect blend of comedy and catharsis as Callinan sets out on a quest to discover the identities of two soldiers in a family photo. What role did the Callinans play in the Great War? He later conveniently finds the diary of Paddy Callinan in a Warrnambool op-shop.

Callinan creates a welcoming atmosphere right from the start incorporating some friendly audience interaction. The ease with which he introduces us into his world invites us to share in his and Paddy’s adventures, joys and heartbreaks.

We are then introduced to Paddy and his ‘push’, a motley crue of men who have come together to fight for King and Country…and have a bit of a laugh while they’re doing it. Callinan embodies each of these distinct secondary characters with finesse and pitch-perfect clarity. His physicality and vocal work is fantastic.

The set was simple but effective and the lighting emphasised shifts in mood and tone. Callinan said one of the main reasons for writing the show was so he could wear a uniform and rightly so – he is well and truly dashing in his authentic World War I get-up.

The combination of a cleverly written and beautifully structured script and Callinan’s comic (and dramatic) talents makes this the highlight of the 2015 Adelaide Fringe so far. Please, please, please go see this fantastic work by one of the masters of Australian comedy – you will not regret it.

Review 4 - Nick Richardson - Herald Sun

YOU might know Damian Callinan as a whip-smart comedian, who bobs up in TV sketches and panel game shows. On the evidence of this show, he is considerably more than that.

This is a cleverly written and pitch-perfect delivery of a piece of theatre that could have toppled into a kind of maudlin self-indulgence very easily. But Callinan navigates that potential pitfall with some panache.

This is a show with a narrative: coming across the World War I diary of Digger Paddy Callinan in a Warrnambool op shop, Callinan is transported back to 1914.

We see, through his eyes, his mates, his girlfriend, the Turks, the Western Front, and a fair bit in between; there’s heaps of laughs, a fair bit of pathos and a pretty bloody good dancing routine. But if you’re not like Callinan, and aren’t obsessed by the Great War, there’s still plenty to engage you — the humour, is topical, witty and surreal.

It all comes together in Private Paddy’s story. And best of all, it feels real.

For a few moments, you get a sense of what it must have been like, skylarking with your mates on the other side of the world, just before the bullets and bombs arrived.

4 stars

AUDIENCE & VENUE FEEDBACK

Lighthouse Theatre, Warrnambool

‘It’s a funny, inspiring show & thoroughly enjoyable.’ ... ‘One of the funniest, sad shows I have ever witnessed.’ ... ‘One of the funniest, most clever & poignant plays I have seen in a very long time.’ ... ‘What a very poignantly, funny & great show – it would have to appeal to all ages.’ ...‘My Grandfather was a Gallipoli survivor, so your show had a special significance for me. I’m really up with ANZAC history and you covered it so well.’ ... ‘You have so cleverly, movingly, amazingly transported us back to Gallipolli and back.’ ... ‘Absolutely a tour de force – well done.’

Rosebery RSL [Tas]

'Can only say thank you from a community which sees too little of this' ... Well done, I enjoyed every second of the show' ... 'Thoroughly enjoyed it. Excellent show'


The Little Theatre, Deloraine [Tas]

'My Grandfather died from the effects of mustard gas at Ypres. Your show was very evocative of the times and attitudes. Thank you' ... 'Was the best show we have seen in a long while. Thanks for the laughs' ... 'Brilliant. I want to see it again' ... 'Wonderful evening. Very funny & real connections with those that were there' ... 'Loved the trench humus for my Great Grandfather who served in France'

Burnie Arts Centre [Tas]
Karina Rose - Burnie Arts

Damian Callinan is a versatile and highly talented actor-comedian. He has an innate ability to story-tell, switching between humour and poignance effortlessly. Damian cleverly connects with the audience, involving them in the journey, and captivating their attention throughout the show.

Audience

'Very Clever. Great show' ... 'What a great night. Grandfather was a Light Horseman at Gallipoli'

The Cube Theatre, Wodonga [Vic]
Chelsea McLaren - Team Leader, Cube Theatre

Damian Callinan is Australia's living treasure, well one of them lets say. Damian has the ability to make you think and laugh at the same time and with his show The Lost WWI Diary he draws the audience into a tale woven with black humour, pathos and outright silliness that only he knows how to do. Our audiences came out of the theatre grinning and reflecting on their own family histories. Damian's storytelling makes you want to pull up a chair, grab a drink and bunker in because it is always entertaining and often tugs at the heartstrings. 10/10 *****


Audience

'I wonder if Paddy met my Great Uncle John 'Boy' Chamberlain in France - I think they would have been mates' ... 'Absolutely superb. A great blend of comedy & pathos' ..."Laughed & laughed & laughed - pretty good considering I was underwater with a pod of whales' ... 'Dad was in Armentieres in 1917. Gassed. Good to know that sense of humour existed. You did it well' ... 'What a great mixture of old & new, sadness & laughter - typifying true Australian humour. Loved it Damian' ... Thank you so much Damian: a moving tribute to those who experienced such horror: You nailed it - lots of larrikins laughs and the tears that were shed were real'


Mt Beauty Community Hall [Vic]

'Fantastic! Amazing! Thankyou. Our Grandfather from Tawonga was in Egypt during WW1. He drove a train with POW's' ... 'Laughing & crying. Brilliant show. Come back anytime' ... Loved it. How very, very clever.'

Kyneton Town Hall [Vic]
Robyn Till
Coordinator - Arts & Culture
Macedon Ranges Shire Council

Always a treat to have Damian Callinan perform in the Kyneton Town Hall. His latest show 'The Lost WW1 Diary' impressed our audience with his skilful delivery of a beautiful but witty script. They were definitely all with him on this WW1 journey. Damian and Zillah were a delight to work with for their professionalism and generosity. Damian made the time to meet and greet with the audience members after the show. Indeed one audience member was so delighted with the performance she asked if she could have one of our posters for Damian to sign. She explained to FOH staff that she was going to have it framed and place it on her wall. She said "this had been the best performance I had ever attended!"

Audience

'Meer cats will never be the same: A great evening' ... 'You managed to recover the 100th anniversary' ... 'My great Uncle George died at Krithia & my Great, Great Uncle George died at Fromelles. Thanks for the humour & the pathos Damian' ... 'Being from America, I have never been educated properly on Australian History. Thank you for the personal insight & hilarious view of WW1. I didn't know it could be so funny & so moving at the same time.'


Alexander Theatre, Monash University, Clayton [Vic]

'What a pleasure to see this show. It was a blend of drama and humour; facts and imagination. Very up to date and historical. Damian was so versatile, skilled and entertaining that he held the stage and the audience in his hands. Loved the audience engagement and how impromptu references were added right to the end. A very clever and unusual story and presented by one actor by many colourful but real characters. Thank you for the privilege of being an audience member. Highly recommended!!!'


Wesley Performing Arts Centre, Horsham [Vic]

'A tremendous effort - light & shade in perfect balance. My great grand father was Hugo Throssell of the 10th Light Horse - awarded the VC for bravery in the trenches and a keen amateur dramatist' ... 'Great show, total unexpected. My grandfather served in France & I know he would have enjoyed your humorous & moving show' ... 'Absolutely brilliant. Travelled 1.5 hours to see your show after hearing you on ABC Radio. Laughs, laughs, cry, laughs!' ... 'Very well researched and brilliantly performed' ... 'So very clever as always. An amazing take on what were not such such wonderful times. My Great Uncle Harold Alfred Lear was on of the emu feathered 'little horsemen' & another Great Uncle Thomas Albert McClure was KIA. He is one the me nay missing commemorated on the Menin Gate'


West Gippsland Performing Arts Centre, Warragul [ViC]

Rob Robson
General Manager - West Gippsland PAC

Damian Callinan recently performed his one man show 'Lost World War 1 Diary' at West Gippsland Arts Centre. The show surprised and delighted the audience. In many ways in this commemoration year, many were prepared to see the traditional ANZAC legend played out again, but not many were ready for the fresh and quite original voice Damian brought to the subject matter. The poorly educated, barely adult, good hearted larrikin must have been well represented in the body of young troops who left Australia for that conflict, yet such characters seem to be underrepresented in the dramatizations and recollections we have been more used to seeing. Damian's performance recognises and celebrates these youthful, open and naïve characters in a way that totally engages the audience, moving quickly from funny anecdotes and silly mimes to very moving moments when the full horror of the war confronts the cast of soldiers he conjures up in the telling. By connecting a historical subject matter with a contemporary style of story-telling (part mime, part stand-up, part improv, part monologue, all theatre) Damian is able to make the topic personal and approachable, right up to including local (and topical) references. This is the third show of Damian's we have presented and each time we have built on his growing relationship with our audiences who now embrace him like a local who comes back 'home' from time to time with a new funny story to tell.


Audience

'Loved the show. Brought back memories of visiting Alfred Williamson's grave this year at Lone Pine' ... Stunning, moving, hilarious. My grandfather served in WW1 & died as result of being gassed several times' ... 'Thank you so much Damian for a great show - so funny about such a serious subject. What an amazing tribute. I haven't laughed that much for so long' ... 'Such an enjoyable evening. Such a clever actor & writer. Not what I had expected. The humour was used to soften the reality'

Cardinia Arts Centre, Pakenham

'Gem of a show! So well researched, yet so light hearted & funny ... Very entertaining and educational. Remembering my grandfathers on the Western Front ... Excellent presentation. Every aspect of the 4 years covered ... So glad we came, such a story told so well'


LaTrobe Performing Arts Centre, Traralgon

Kathleen Roberts
Venue Manager


The portrayal of characters in 'The Lost WW1 Diary' shared thought provoking tales and resonated with our audience as they were taken on a journey through time and place. The Latrobe Performing Arts patrons embraced the audience interaction and were entertained by the comical links and moved by the reality of the themes and content. The fourth wall was broken on numerous occasions which highlighted the truth behind many of the stories shared and the sound and set design took us to a place where characters were realised and believed.

'The Lost WW1 Diary' was a well received show which was talked about in the days to follow by those who had the pleasure of experiencing it. Congratulations Damian.

John Leslie Theatre, Sale

'A clever & moving show. Enjoyed it very much [esp. the meer cat] Great script' ... 'Thank you Damian. Laughter & tears.: an admirable mix' ... Fantastic show, thank you. Thinking about my Great Uncle John Francis Summer 13th Light Horse. Came home and lived a terrific life'


The Forge Theatre, Bairnsdale

'The best show I've ever seen & I've been around awhile' ... Absolutely brilliant & captivating right to the very last meerkat' ... 'You were brilliant, you are brilliant' ... 'Loved it from the start, awesome!' ... 'A moving tribute to the diggers. You brought it alive ... Very, very enjoyable, please return!'


Cavendish Memorial Hall
Anthony Hill - Principal - Cavendish Primary School

Last week's performance at Cavendish has been the talk of the township for the past week. All who attended were certain that "this was his best ever!" Your attention to local detail, crowd interactions, superb comedic timing and your willingness to mix with the audience after the event sent everybody home with a smile and a lot of happy memories. On behalf of the Cavendish Primary School, I wish to say a big thank you for all your efforts in providing such a terrific performance to our community. We hope you will be able to favour us again next year!