Starring Jan Bolwell

1st September 2017

Jan Bolwell has written a sixty-minute solo play Bill Massey’s Tourists about her grandfather, Arthur Gardiner’s experiences in World War One. She writes from the point of view of a teenage granddaughter doing a school project on WW1 and trying to entice her grandfather to tell her about his war experiences. The play is titled Bill Massey’s Tourists because this is what the Kiwi soldiers called themselves, referring to their Prime Minister Bill Massey. The ironic title sets the tone of the play that is peppered with jokes, dances, songs and soldiers ditties about the war.

Bolwell plays her adolescent self, trying to get her grandfather Arthur to talk about his war. After much pestering, he succumbs. What follows is a gripping, painful and sometimes hilarious tale of a young Kiwi soldier from Otago.

“Not only does Bolwell change character in the blink of an eye, but lighting up the stage with energy, she breaks effortlessly into perfectly integrated song and dance, whether it’s Arthur’s waltz with his bride-to-be or the more vulgar capering of the soldiers

‘Bill Massey’s Tourists’ is directed by the award-winning Wellington theatre director, Kerryn Palmer, with design by Nicole Cosgrove and the play is peppered with movement sequences set to amusing and original WW1 soldiers’ ditties and First World War poems set to music by composer Laughton Pattrick..


Jan Bolwell is a playwright, performer, choreographer and director of Wellington’s Crows Feet Dance Collective. In 2014/15 the Collective presented The Armed Man, a full-length dance work about WW1.

‘Bill Massey’s Tourists’ is Jan’s fifth play and the third in a trilogy of solo plays. Standing on my Hands told the story of her father’s WW2 experiences and Here’s Hilda!  was the dramatisation of her grandmother’s life. In 2013, together with Sacha Copland and John Smythe, to much acclaim, she toured her play Dancing in the Wake with AOTNZ. Double Portrait, her play about Frances Hodgkins, also toured extensively throughout New Zealand.

In late 2015 Jan was awarded a writer's residency at the Robert Lord Writer's Cottage in Dunedin. She is currently writing a play about Freda du Faur, the first woman to climb Aoraki/ Mount Cook in 1910, and Lydia Bradey the first woman to climb Mount Everest solo without oxygen. The play Taking the High Ground opens at Bats Theatre in Wellington this December. A the moment Jan is directing and choreographing the political satire Destination Beehive 2017 opening next month at Circa Theatre, Wellington. 

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