The Forgotten Warrior, a unique production re-telling the story of a First Nations WWI soldier has recently concluded a five-month tour across remote communities in the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales.
Peter Craigie was one of over 1000 Indigenous soldiers who fought in WWI, having travelled more than 1700km by horseback across western Queensland’s Simpson Desert to enlist in the Australian armed forces.
His story has been re-told on stage using a combination of both cinema and live theatre by the charitable organisation, The Storey Players.
Lead by director Simon Storey, The Storey Players partnered with Trevina Rogers, a Pitta Pitta woman from north-west Queensland to develop the production that tells of her great-uncle’s true story whilst highlighting the contribution that First Nations people made during WWI.
After performing 24 times to more than 2000 children and adults in outback communities, Mr Storey felt the production had a profound impact on many of it’s viewers.
“The first tour has been incredibly successful and we’ve just had amazing feedback and reviews,” he said.
“It’s really, really moving people and making them aware of the one thousand plus Indigenous soldiers that went to WWI.”
Mr Storey was inspired to write The Forgotten Warrior after researching Peter Craigie’s story, however didn’t begin production until realising he had known a Craigie descendant all along, having met Ms Rogers in the northern outback town of Dujarra in 2017.
“I was immediately taken by the story, but I didn’t know anybody in the family so I didn’t really feel comfortable to go poking around and asking questions,” he said.
“About a year later, I noticed an article about the memorial that had been built for Peter Craigie which included a picture of his great niece Trevina, a friend of mine from Dajarra.
“I called her straightaway and said, look, I’ve just seen this, do you want to write a show about Peter Craigie?
“She said yes, and that’s how it all started.”
Ms Rogers provided much of Peter Craigie’s life story for the production.
“It was just like sitting down and having a cup of tea talking about the old people and what our family had accomplished,” she said.
“It’s important to share the history of knowledge with everyone because not many know the hardships that Aboriginal people went through back then.”
Even though she is very familiar with Peter Craigie’s story and had told it many times, Ms Rogers said viewing the production for the first time was confronting.
“For it to be repeated and put in front of my face, I was like, oh my goodness,” she said.
“But it was also very touching.”
The cinematic component of the production features two Indigenous actors, Jack Mahoney (Bidjara) who plays Peter Craigie and Jazleen David De Busch (Kaanju and Pitta Pitta woman), a Craigie family descendant who plays Peter’s wife Daisy Cusack.
Mr Storey said there were significant challenges in collaborating with Mr Mahoney and Ms David De Busch due to COVID-19, which lead to the combined cinematic and theatrical approach.
“It was born from COVID lockdowns, but it has actually been a really, really positive occurrence,” he said.
“We got to the point we tried several times to meet, but it just wasn’t going to happen.
“Instead of postponing the project we decided we would film all of Jack and Jazleen’s parts, which are the main parts, and then edit that into a film.
“I then come out during the film to present the live supporting roles.”
Mr Storey has been invited by west Arnhem Land’s Nawarddeken Academy to perform The Forgotten Warrior and deliver drama, storytelling and filmmaking workshops for young people this November.
“We’ll sit down with the Elders and the young people and talk about what sort of stories they’d like to create,” he said.
“Then we’ll film and we’re going to use language too, which is going to be really exciting.”
The Storey Players hope to continue performing The Forgotten Warrior across regional and remote Australia in the future.