“Bill Massey’s Tourists” Today

 Jan Bolwell on her grandfather’s experiences in World War One

Bill Massey's Tourists

Jan Bolwell tells the story of her grandfather, Arthur Gardiner, and his experiences on the Western Front in World War One in her new solo play.

 ~ St Peters Hall Paekakariki
 ~ Sunday July 6th at 2.30pm.

At first her grandfather is reluctant to talk about the war, but gradually she   coaxes him to reveal what actually happened to him and his mates in the trenches of France and Flanders. Army training at Sling Camp in England and at Étaples in France are a challenge for Arthur and his mates and provide for amusing confrontations as the Kiwis resist army discipline. The terrible tragedy of Passchendaele is a central focus of the play as the battle is depicted in both movement and storytelling.

‘Bill Massey’s Tourists’ 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.

Projected images of Arthur and his war mates and general scenes of war are an intrinsic part of the play that also deals with opposition to the war and propaganda that was used to get young men to fight for the Empire. Lord Kitchener visited New Zealand in 1910, and one scene in the play shows schoolboys like Arthur being urged to become soldiers for the Empire.

A show for all ages

Bill Massey’s Tourists is a play designed for general audiences, both young and old. Jan Bolwell has taken her play into local secondary schools, and has been impressed by the student interest in World War One. ‘Students today are much more knowledgeable about New Zealand’s war history than we were, and they have asked some excellent questions after I have performed the play.’

In one scene Bolwell wears an actual replica of a World War One gas mask. ‘I wanted to include the impact of gas on WW1 soldiers, because the gassing the men experienced in the trenches certainly affected my grandfather’s health in the years following the war.’

This is the third in a trilogy of solo plays Jan has written about her family. Standing on my Hands told of her father’s WW2 experiences in Egypt and Italy. Here’s Hilda! depicted her grandmother’s life and now she tells her grandfather’s war story.

Kerryn Palmer directs the play with design by Nicole Cosgrove.

About Jan Bolwell

Jan_Bolwell3Jan is a playwright, actor, dancer and choreographer. Her most recent play Dancing in the Wake toured to 18 centres throughout New Zealand in 2013 with Arts on Tour New Zealand. Jan is also director/choreographer of Crows Feet Dance Collective, Wellington’s unique dance company for mature performers.  Earlier this year Crows Feet presented ‘The Armed Man’ a dance work in commemoration of New Zealanders in the First World War.


  • Bill Massey’s Tourists
  • St Peters Hall Paekakariki
  • Sunday July 6th at 2.30pm.
  • Bookings at Darcys in Paekakariki OR COASTLANDS 902 9885