Nicola Kawana

Currently running at the Q Theatre in Auckland, Sister Anzac is set in Gallipoli in 1915, and focuses on the nurses who went there on the hospital ship the Maheno. Like the men they boldly put their hands up. 14 were accepted for this first trip, travelling as if they were heading for a big adventure. The horror they met is history.

Sister Anzac premiered in 2014 to an enraptured audience and critical acclaim at the Devonport Navy Museum and went on to have two more sold-out seasons.

We caught up with Nicola Kawana who has a leading role in the play. 

How did you get involved with Sister Anzac?

Amanda (director Amanda Rees) asked me to do it. I think they'd done two seasons of this before and the actress who had been playing my role moved to England, so I filled the role.

Did you know much about the Anzac Nurses before you took on the role?

Not terribly, no. I'd seen the play before in its first year, but I didn't know much about the Anzac Nurses because you don't really hear their story when you hear the war stories.

Did you find the story quite emotional?

Not particularly, but I'm a bit of a hard arse probably (laughs). But I think a lot of people do and are quite moved by it.

What do you think the most challenging aspect was that these ladies faced?

I think just actually being women in World War I in 1915, when the men didn't really want them there because was wasn't really a ladies thing. So I suppose women didn't get to have such pleasurable roles, I suppose they didn't see them as being as capable of being able to handle the situation. So I think their sex really was the most difficult part of their journey.

How is it working with Amanda Rees?

She's very meticulous (laughs). It's kind of like her baby this play, and she's been doing it now for 3 years I think. So she's really connected to it and has a lot invested in it. So she has a very clear vision about what it is that she wants.

I've knew Amanda previously because her sister Donna Rees, who is also in the play, is one of my best friends, so I've know Amanda for years through Donna.

Is there a good camaraderie within the team?

Yes, it's a really lovely cast actually. It's an incredibly nice group of people, which was another draw card for me.

After a run in Hamilton, the show is heading to Auckland

Yes, it heads up to Auckland for a week and then the week after that we're doing it at the Maritime Museum. That's a promenade performance, so that means we'll be moving the audience around with us to all the different spaces. I reckon that would be the one to go to because you'll be right in the heart of the all the history as well. They've done it there before and they said it's really cool to perform among all that stuff.

Sister Anzac

August 23 - 28: Q Theatre, Auckland - Tickets via Q Theatre

August 31 - September 10: Maritime Museum, Auckland - Tickets via Maritime Museum