The Secret Battle

There are two extracts here.  Feel free to sign up with a friend for your reading, but don't worry if you're solo: I can read the other parts.  Choose a part that you like and practise it before the audition.  Remember that all these characters will speak with what's known as 'received pronunciation' (posh, in other words!).

You will only be reading ONE scene in the audition.  Don't worry too much about which part you choose: I will be making those judgements myself.  I want to hear you read.

Any questions, speak to me.

Dr S

Extract One

Harry is a teenage soldier, very keen but, as you will read, also prone to self-doubt.

Benson is older, calm and father-like.

Hewitt is smaller role.  He is early twenties, a  thoughtful and intelligent chap.

Gallipoli: An Inland Cliff

Harry, Hewitt and Benson stand gazing in awe.

HARRY: Gosh!

BENSON: It’s really something, isn’t it?

HARRY: What’s that bay called on the left?

BENSON: That’s Morto Bay, then beyond that the first section of Achi Baba rising to De Tott’s Battery.

HARRY: The water. It’s unbelievably blue.

BENSON: You can just make out the Anatolian summit. See? There’s a glint of snow at the top.

HARRY: Oh yes, I can see it.

BENSON: But I don’t know what that wide green plain is called. Have you any idea, Hewitt?

HEWETT: If I’m not very much mistaken, that is the Plain of Troy.


HEWETT: I’m sure it is.

BENSON: Well, that is something.

HARRY: Something? I should say so! Really? Are you sure?

HEWETT: Pretty sure.

BENSON: I didn’t know you were a classical man, Hewitt.

HEWETT: Well, yes, actually. Oxford. In my third year. Hope to get back to it some day.

BENSON: I’m sure you will.

HARRY: So that must have been where the Greek fleet lay.

HEWETT: Yes, you see those two little sweepers anchored near the mouth of the Straits? Well, imagine instead twelve hundred Greek ships ready for battle.

BENSON: And all for a woman, eh?

HEWETT: Benson, have you no poetry in you at all?

BENSON: (laughs) Afraid not. I’m no poet. All seems rather silly to me.

HARRY: Silly? Really? But no! To fight for the woman you love!

BENSON: Careful. You’re beginning to sound like a romantic novel.

HEWETT: Is it any more silly than this war?

BENSON: I think it is, but let’s not get into that. We get enough of that from Eustace.

HEWETT: That’s true. Look here, if you don’t mind waiting a minute, I want to see if there’s a way down to the sea.

BENSON: I don’t think there is.

HEWETT: I won’t be long.

Exit Hewett.

BENSON: He’s a good sort, Hewett.

HARRY: Oh yes, rather. I like him as well as any man I’ve met out here.

BENSON: Oh yes?

HARRY: You also, of course. I didn’t mean to…

BENSON: No, don’t be silly. I’m glad you get on. You need chaps of your own age and not old duffers like me.

HARRY: You’re not that old!

BENSON: Well, thank you!


BENSON: Do you mind my asking you a question?

HARRY: Not at all.

BENSON: And I won’t be in the least bit offended it you don’t want to answer. It really is none of my business. I’m just curious.

HARRY: Please ask what you like.

BENSON: Why didn’t you take up a commission immediately? I only ask because when we discussed it in Malta I felt there was more to it.

HARRY: Well, yes, there is.

BENSON: But if you’d rather not discuss it…

HARRY: No, I’m happy to talk to you about it. I just didn’t want to say it in front of the other chaps.

BENSON: Naturally. Burnett can be rather bullish at times.

HARRY: Yes, but you see he was quite right when he asked if I thought I wouldn’t cut the mustard.

BENSON: Really? But you’re so keen.

HARRY: Oh yes, I’m as keen as mustard. I’m just not sure I could cut it!

BENSON: How do you mean?

HARRY: Well, take last night for example. You know I was detailed to look after the baggage when we disembarked?

BENSON: Yes, and you did a good job.

HARRY: I did all right, except for losing old Tompkins’s valise- but you can’t think how much worry and anxiety it gave me beforehand. All the time on the sweeper I was imagining a hundred possible disasters: the working party not turning up, the Colonel’s things being dropped overboard, a row with the M.L.O. It all worked out fine in the end, but I tell you, Benson, it gave me hell. And it’s always the same. That’s why I didn’t take the commission- because I couldn’t imagine myself drilling the men without becoming a laughing-stock.

BENSON: But the men seem to respect you well enough.

HARRY: Oh yes, I usually find out that I was wrong, but it doesn’t stop me worrying about being a failure the next time. And that’s how I feel about the whole war. I’ve a terror of being found out as a failure, a sort of regimental dud. The sort that nobody gives and important job to because he’s bound to muck up.

BENSON: I think everybody feels that to a certain degree.

HARRY: Not like this, I’m sure. But then, looking at this view- Tory and all that- and thinking how those Greeks sweated blood for ten years on afternoons as hot as this one, and we still know about them and remember their names- well, it’s giving me a kind of inspiration. I don’t know why. I’ve got a bit of confidence- God knows how long it will last- but I swear I won’t be a failure, I won’t be the battalion dud, and I’ll have damned good try to get a medal of some sort and be like- like Achilles or someone.

Enter Hewett

HEWETT: (a little breathless) You were right. There’s no way down. Shame because it’s such a beautiful colour.

BENSON: Oh well, we’d better get back in any case.

HARRY: Can’t we just stay for a few more minutes? I do so enjoy looking at this view.

BENSON: Certainly. We have a few minutes.

Extract 2

Peggy appears as Harry's young wife, and then as his widow sixteen years later. Both are good parts, but they are quite different.  As a younger woman she is quite naive and simply wants what is best for her young husband, who in this scene is recuperating from an injury. As an older woman, having brought up a son alone for sixteen years, she is understandably tougher.

George is Benson from above.

Harry exits.

PEGGY: How do you think he’s looking?

GEORGE: I think he looks pretty fit, all things considered.

PEGGY: Do you think he’ll have to go out again? I don’t think he ought to, but they seem so short of men still. He’s not really strong, you know.

GEORGE: Yes, well, they are looking for more men, certainly, and an experienced officer like Harry… But then, he has done his bit- well, more than his bit- so they may not think it’s his duty. I’m sorry, it’s a difficult question. You should speak to him about it.

PEGGY: I have tried, believe me.


PEGGY: You know, he has the most terrible dreams. He wakes up screaming at night, and quite frightens me. And I don’t think they ought to be allowed to go out again when they’re like that. I don’t want him to go out again. At least, if it’s his duty, of course… No, I don’t want him to go… Anyhow… You say he’s done his bit. Do you believe that?

GEORGE: Absolutely. He has indeed.

PEGGY: Well, you must have some influence with him. Can’t you-

Enter Harry.

HARRY: Sorry. Something I needed to do. Peggy, why don’t you play us that Chopin you’ve been practising. I’m sure George would love to hear it.

GEORGE: Certainly. Very much.

PEGGY: I’m not sure that I’m feeling quite up to it just now, Harry.

George goes to her. He has the air of someone who has made a decision. Peggy catches on and looks at him hopefully. He holds out his hand.

HARRY: Please. I would very much like to hear you play.

PEGGY: Yes, of course.

She goes to the piano and plays. When she has finished, there is a pause and then Harry goes to her and puts his hand on her shoulder. She covers it with her own.

GEORGE: I’d better be going.

PEGGY: Of course, sorry George. I’ll just get your coat.


Awkward silence.

PEGGY: So you knew? When we were having that conversation you knew about the War Office job? I only found out years later, but you knew all along. I was asking for your help and you never told me.

GEORGE: I’m sorry.

PEGGY: You must have thought me rather an embarrassment.

GEORGE: Not at all. I… I’m sorry. There wasn’t anything I could say. It was his decision.

PEGGY: But your decision to go through the casualty list just when there was a chance, a small chance, that he might stay.

GEORGE: Don’t think that I haven’t regretted that moment. But he would have read it for himself at some point. And even if he hadn’t there would have been other casualty lists. He wouldn’t have been able to ignore them with his sense of duty.

PEGGY: Duty? Don’t talk to me of duty. What about his duty as a husband, as a father? You say that I didn’t embarrass myself that evening, but I’m embarrassed now just thinking about it. Sixteen years as a widow bringing up a son on my own gives you a different perspective on life. If I were to go back to that evening I wouldn’t be playing Chopin to sooth the wounded soldiers. I’d be screaming and shouting to keep him home where he belonged.

Excuse me.