Jake had an idea. To stage the most valorous and masculine of Shakespearian plays, a play about sacrifice, leadership, courage and brotherhood in war, on ANZAC Day. To link the solemn sacristy of ANZAC Day commemorations with the past from whence it sprang. The Battle of Agincourt, France, 1415. The Battles of Neuve Chapelle, Loos, The Second Battle of Ypres, in the same region, on the same front, five hundred years later – 1915. To pay tribute to the soldiers of the First World War through the homage of Shakespeare’s greatest military play. The words of mateship that never lose their power:

“From this day to the ending of the world,

but we in it shall be remembered –

we few, we happy few, we band of brothers:

for he today that sheds his blood with me

shall be my brother.”..

And the gravest arguings against war, even in those far away times:

“Bloody constraint:.. he bids you take mercy

On the poor souls for whom this hungry war

opens his vasty jaws…and on your head

turning the widows’ tears, the orphans’ cried,

the dead men’s blood, the prived maidens groans,

for husbands, fathers, and betrothed lovers

that shall be swallowed in this controversy..”

Jake remember the power of ANZAC Day in Leeton, as a child. Marching with the old soldiers, the Pipe Band and its moving bagpipe tribute to the past, the children in neat lines, the poetry, the Last Post, the solemnity of the silence. The cenotaph in the still Autumn air. The majesty of that moment – and how it was truly Shakespearian in its scope and form.

Who would have foreseen? The journey from the stage of Leeton’s Roxy Theatre, out into the world, to NIDA, to international recognition as a heartthrob on Home and Away – and a growing reputation as a film maker with his own production company, his blogs and podcasts, his musicals, and plays. Yet the heart still bound to the memories and landscape of his childhood and youth, his home country. The pull of the stories and the people here. The vision of that solemn, heroic ANZAC Day ceremony stretching back into the past – from the first day’s of Leeton which were also the days of World War I. And the words of Henry V imprinted on his mind from school, and from NIDA.

Suddenly, out of nowhere – a dinner party, some phone calls, a visit home, a fallow time during COVID, an aligning of the stars – the Roxy refresh, the people coverging on the town for one reason or another – love, COVID, Fate, family – and the seed was planted.

Staging Henry V. In Leeton. In the park. To align with ANZAC Day. To showcase just what a world-class production can be delivered in our small town.

The story of how it is unfolding is a story of what people can do together, with vision and tenacity, the story of a talent pool within our rural heartland, and a community’s capacity to come together to support the vision. A story of love and courage. A story for the ages. April 2021. The King is coming!

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