The White Mouse celebrates Australia’s French Resistance leader, Nancy Wake. Known as The White Mouse for her ability to evade capture, Dame Nancy Wake was a woman who was celebrated by the French and the English, long before Australia finally did in 2004 when she was awarded the Companion of the Order of Australia as a War hero: “The award recognises the significant contribution and commitment of Nancy Wake, stemming from her outstanding actions in wartime, in encouraging community appreciation and understanding of the past sacrifices made by Australian men and women in times of conflict, and to a lasting legacy of peace“.
The White Mouse begins with a lady landing on stage, swearing as she does, having parachuted into a French forest. A French man named Tabi comes to greet her. She presents herself as Andree, just one of the many names we learn Nancy White becomes known by. They await her colleague Denden who was too scared to jump from the plane so was to arrive at La Rochelle by boat. Denden is never seen during this play – only referred to and in one amusing scene yelled at off stage. But Denden doesn’t need to be on stage, for this is a play about Andree (Dame Nancy Wake). Nancy Wake is played by Emily Jo Davidson, who did the role great justice.
Les attitudes chauvines et pessimistes concernant le fait que les Anglais leur ont envoyé une femme, et qu’une femme ne leur fera aucun bien, deviennent rapidement apparentes, en particulier de la part du soldat français Jacques. Cependant, les soldats français apprennent rapidement que cela ne pourrait pas être plus éloigné de la vérité, car elle les dépasse au combat. Plus tard, Jacques mange ses mots en racontant comment ils ont perdu de vue Andrée alors qu’elle allait tuer les Allemands.
The set was simple but clever – a painted folding partition board allows us to be transported to a Marseille Café or to the private space Andree occupies in the forest. In Marseille, we learn that Andree met her future husband in Marseille and that he proposed to her shortly before she fled. Sadly, news comes to her that he has been taken captive and killed while she is in that forest.
The on-stage action occasionally cuts to an Englishman in front of a map of Europe, explaining where the war is at and telling us that Nancy Wake is known as Helena to them.
In The White Mouse, we see Nancy’s firmness but also kindness with a German soldier they take prisoner as she tries to persuade him that at 17 he has his life ahead of him and that Hitler will not protect them. She goes so far as to offer him safe passage to London.
The White Mouse is a play from Peter Maddern’s production company, Palmerston Projects. For the past 5 years, Palmerston has presented new theatrical works, dramas and comedies across a variety of subject matters from football to World War II, such as Kokoda etc. It is also responsible for last year’s sell-out hit “The Loneliest Woman”
The blurb advertising the event describes it as “the story of Dame Nancy Wake, fighter, lover and a force of nature, set during her time as a leader of the French Resistance.” It certainly achieves that. The White Mouse paints a picture of an Australian woman passionate about saving France from Germany, and passionate about her fiancée. But is also portrays a woman who was quite fearless, fighting not just with but outpowering the boys.
The White Mouse is being performed in the Star Theatre Two at Star Theatres on Sir Donald Bradman Drive, Hilton.
Remaining performances of The White Mouse are:
- Wed 3 Mar – Thu 4 Mar: 5pm, 7:30pm
- Fri 5 Mar: 11am
- Sat 6 Mar – Sun 7 Mar: 2pm, 5pm
- Mon 8 Mar: 7pm
- Thu 11 Mar – Sun 14 Mar: 5pm
Tickets are available at: https://adelaidefringe.com.au/fringetix/the-white-mouse-af2021
Matilda Marseillaise was a guest of the Adelaide Fringe.
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