Bernard Clancy Reviews Foxholes of the Mind

Excerpts from the show are now available for you on YouTube:
December 2016 – Hello sponsors, friends and supporters of Foxholes of the Mind.
Foxholes of the Mind
It is now three months since the conclusion of the tour of Foxholes of the Mind. – Time for review.
All venues, Drysdale, Bayswater, Sale, Frankston, Ballarat and Philip Island attracted strong audiences despite funding available only for limited marketing. The performance at St. Joseph’s College, Geelong, to Year 10s (average age 15-16) was enlightening. According to reports (this was the only performance I missed, through illness) they were very attentive and their questions later revealed a deep curiosity which I found gratifying.

Perhaps the highlight of the tour was the performance at the National Vietnam Veterans’ Museum on Philip Island. When they first contacted me to ask if we would perform the play there I said no, we needed a dedicated theatre.

They said they’d build one, and they did. They cleaned out a restoration work shed at the rear of the museum, with the exception of an RAAF Vietnam war era Canberra bomber they’re rebuilding. Under one wing they installed 120 seats. A stage was built, theatre lighting installed, and voila! A magnificent theatre appeared – with tremendously realistic ambience.

The sell-out audience loved it – and really appreciated the drinks and nibbles before and after the show.

A feature of the tour was a Q&A after the show with producer/director Wolf Heidecker, the actors and myself. Even though the play was a full two hours, 99.9% of audience members remained for that chat.

Many people related personally to the play’s story. Many told their own stories, their own experiences with PTSD. Many said they now better understood PTSD and close relatives affected by it. There were many hugs and tears of (hopefully) healing.

Foxholes, despite my attempt to inject some humor into the script, it is still a chilling, eye-opening show.  And yet it is a story which had to be told, and needs to be retold, over and over again, until there is a wide community understanding of PTSD and its potentially devastating effects on our society. Our audiences probably totalled more than 2000. Yes, a mere drop in the ocean, but with a little luck, the ripple effect will spread the word. Only time will tell on that.

Reviews from both audiences and critics were overwhelmingly positive. Thank you. For that I’m most grateful. There was a huge number of people who made a contribution to the play and the tour, both large and small. Every one was extremely valuable. Again, thank you, personally and behalf of the veteran community. 

From my own perspective, this tour was the culmination of a long journey, more than 10 years in the making. It has been a very personal one, a mission, a passion. It came very close to being an obsession, something I didn’t see until post-tour when I realised I was absolutely exhausted, physically and emotionally. It has taken some time to recover from that, but now I’m looking forward to a summer on the beach.

Foxholes has not saved the world, but hopefully it made a contribution to the public awareness of veterans’ health issues. I’m very gratified to see that the current government has pledged to introduce initiatives to address some, particularly to review the appalling adversarial approach of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to veterans’ problems.

I take no credit for that. My voice has been just one among thousands demanding far better treatment and appreciation of our veterans.  And yet there is far more to be done than recent political commitments, made reluctantly. There needs to be far more than scraps from the master’s table.  There needs to be actions, not weasel words, empty promises or pompous inquiries that ultimately gather dust in Canberra’s bureaucratic dungeons.

So, as you sit down to Christmas dinner this year, spare a thought for our defenders. And remember these words of wisdom from George Washington: The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, is directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.

Have a great Christmas.

Bernard Clancy – Playwright

PS: My producer/director, Wolf Heidecker, now wants to send Foxholes on a national tour.
If you think you can help in any way please contact the Geelong Vietnam Veterans on (03) 5277 0311