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WWI Artist, George Butler, Inspires New Play

WWI Artist, George Butler, Inspires New Play

The Mid-Winter Readings series culminates with THE WAR ARTIST written by Carl Nixon. It is final of three new New Zealand plays that are being presented as ‘works-in-progress’ at The Court Theatre.

In 2010 Nixon attended an exhibition held at the Canterbury Museum, which featured work by official New Zealand Army war artists. Impressed by paintings from WWII war artist, Peter McIntyre, Nixon turned to online research for inspiration for his next play and stumbled upon George Butler’s work. “Butler sketched many striking and sombre images in the final months of The Great War, but the one that caught my attention was Burial Party at Bellevue Near Solesme. I printed out the image and wrote next to it ‘here is the play!’” recalls Nixon. “How amazing that an artist sat and sketched men digging a mass grave to bury their New Zealand comrades – and so far from home. What is the point of such a piece of art, I wondered? Can it possibly help or even have a place in the face of four years of mechanised slaughter? Who were the men digging the grave and how did they feel; numb, dazed, angry, nothing at all?”

Both poignant and humourous, THE WAR ARTIST explores the validity of creating art in the face of war, as well as the solace to be found in the rites of burial. “Carl has a finely tuned ear for the speech of real New Zealanders. This is reflected in his writing, which vibrates with warmth and humanity” says director, Stephanie McKellar-Smith. “Although the play is set against a background of events which are vast in the scope of history, Carl has woven a story that is one of intimacy and the power of connection.”


Carl Nixon is an award winning playwright, short story writer and novelist. As well as writing original plays THE RAFT, THE BIRTHDAY BOY and TWO FISH ‘N’ A SCOOP, he has adapted Lloyd Jones’ novel The Book of Fame and JM Coetzee's Disgrace. Carl has published two novels: Rocking Horse Road and Settler’s Creek. He has also written numerous plays for children.

THE WAR ARTIST will be presented at 2pm on Sunday, 9 June at The Court Theatre. Following the performance, the audience will be invited to provide feedback and engage in discussion about the work. All tickets are $10. Bookings at www.courttheatre.org.nz or 03 963 0870.

Established in 1971, The Court Theatre is one of New Zealand’s premier theatre companies. The Court is a significant contributor to both the local economy and the national arts sector, employing up to 80 equivalent full-time staff, actors and theatre practitioners.

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