This is Phuoc Tuy Province, South Vietnam, August 1966. This is a rubber plantation called Long Tan.
This is blood and mud and sweat-sodden heat. It’s gunfire, mortars and pounding rain. It’s 108 Australians and New Zealanders and 2,500 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army soldiers locked in a ferocious battle. For the young men fighting through the raging monsoon, it’s something like the end of the world.
After the battle, 17 Australians (plus another lost later from wounds) and more than 245 Vietnamese would lie dead. Many more would carry enduring physical and emotional scars of their experiences that day.
Verity Laughton’s intense and moving semi-verbatim play is composed from interviews with the surviving Australian soldiers, Vietnamese contributors, and the family and friends of those who died. More than a recounting of one battle, it is an exploration of the trauma of war, the fractures in collective memory, and the need to forgive.
And tonight I will have another sleepless night. We always do. The worst time in our lives is August. We don’t sleep in August.