THE tale of a South Shields-born war hero will be brought to life to commemorate the centenary of his death.
John Simpson Kirkpatrick is known to millions on the other side of the world but few know his story of courage on his home shores.
The Customs House, in South Shields, will chronicle his heroic tale in the critically-acclaimed play The Man and the Donkey.
Director Jackie Fielding said: “This is a fantastic, poignant and fascinating piece of theatre with a lot of laughs.
“It’s a story which everyone can enjoy. We are thrilled that most of the original cast and production team are back together and cannot wait for rehearsals to get started again.”
The play was first performed in 2011 and is returning to mark the 100th anniversary of Kirkpatrick’s death.
It will run at the Mill Dam theatre from Tuesday, May 19. to Saturday, May 23.
Valerie Laws’ much-loved play follows John as he joins the Merchant Navy at 17 and heads off to Australia.
From there he enlists to serve with the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzacs) as a stretcher bearer in the First World War.
There, with the help of his trusty donkey Duffy, and under fire, he helped to rescue wounded soldiers on the shores of Gallipoli until his death on May 19, 1915.
In Australia his story is known by everyone and we wanted to remember him in this very special year.Ray Spencer, Customs House executive director
He is now remembered as one of Australia’s best-loved war heroes.
Customs House executive director Ray Spencer said: “When this production was first put on in 2011, everybody loved it.
“We decided to bring it back this year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of John Simpson Kirkpatrick’s death and we are sure it will once again be loved by all who see it.
“It’s a very moving, yet funny play. Kirkpatrick was a real character and the wonderful script, written by Valerie Laws, and fantastic direction by Jackie Fielding really do bring his and Duffy’s story to life.
“In Australia his story is known by everyone and we wanted to remember him in this very special year.
“Kirkpatrick was a true hero – as it says on his gravestone – he gave his life that others may live.
“Anzac Day on Saturday marks 100 years since the Gallipoli landings and I’m sure the people of South Tyneside will take a moment to think of Kirkpatrick, who remains one of South Shields’ greatest heroes.
“But I also think he is one of the finest men to come from the region.”
The Man and the Donkey is at the Customs House from May 19 to 23. Tickets cost £15 with a £14 concession and £5 to schools.
n To book, go to www.customshouse.co.uk or call the box office on 454 1234.