Two well known artists who are geographically a world apart are about to be connected through a search that has massive personal implications for each of them.
They’ll try to understand what soldiers saw, heard and felt during one of the deadliest battles for both Canada and New Zealand in WW1. On top of that, they’ll each be on an intimate and private journey to family discovery.
Leading kiwi actor Dean O’Gorman became preoccupied with World War One when he was in short pants, and his parents took him to London’s Imperial War Museum. Age 10, Dean left clutching a book called “Death’s Men”. The intimate details of trench-foot and shell-shock that made up life in the trenches have obsessed him ever since.
Revered Canadian actor RH Thomson has always had a personal connection to the war. He was inspired to write, direct and star in his 2000 play “The Lost Boys” by 5 great-uncles who were fighting for Canada overseas. Their experiences (specifically those of Great Uncle George who died at Passchendaele) were chronicled in nearly 700 letters that were sent back home. To this day, they remain in the family archive.
Well-spoken, handsome and humorous, Dean O’Gorman is one of NZ’s best-known actors. He’s played fun-loving dwarf Fili (LOTR), an Almighty Johnson, and even Kirk Douglas in Trumbo.
He was recently on NZ screens in the Hillary series as kiwi climber George Lowe, and he’ll soon be Blondini Gang leader John, in the highly anticipated remake of “Goodbye Pork Pie”.
When Dean isn’t acting, he’s taking photos. Really good ones. His photo exhibition “No Man’s Land” is inspired by the battlefields of WWI and hung at last year’s Biennale of the Moving Image in Frankfurt. Going to the actual battlefields says Dean, “has always been on my bucket list.”
RH Thomson has been one of the most respected actors in Canada for more than three decades. Well known in stage, film and TV (from The Twilight Zone to The Englishman’s Boy),his credits have won him many accolades and awards, including a Dora, Genie, Gemini, and in 2015 he was honoured with the Governor General’s Performing Arts Lifetime Achievement Award. He is currently filming the CBC/Netflix series Anne.
Thomson is also an award-winning director and writer. His play, “The Lost Boys” was first presented at the Great Canadian Theatre Company in March, 2000. The play was a personal journey for RH as it’s based on letters his five great-uncles sent home while fighting in World War I.
One of the great-uncles, George Stratford, was killed at Passchendaele in 1917. Armed with more than 100 letters written by George, RH has begun to piece together the story of what happened. Reading and relating to those letters has also given RH a unique connection with his great uncle - a connection he never expected.