Saturday, July 18, 2015

Mrs. Peel and Me.


I am watching TENKO on the TV.

Tenko is the 1980's BBC-ABC (Australia) co-production about women civilian prisoners of war in Malaya during WWII.

I've never seen the series.  I've somehow missed it when it played in 1982?  in Canada.

I was working long hours as a copywriter in radio. I  didn't even own a TV. And I didn't give a damn about my grandmother and her life in Malaya. She had died in 1972 in Kuala Lumpur.

 I had met her but once. (  (My play Looking for Mrs. Peel explains.)

Tenko Actors: I am extremely curious if any incidents in Tenko are taken from Changi memoirs...

About 10 years ago, when I was researching Looking for Mrs. Peel, my 'radio play'  about my grandmother's experiences in Malaya and as a Prisoner of War at Changi, I tried to find a copy of Tenko, but in vain..

The video tape version (remember those?) was out of print (or whatever it is called) and it hadn't been put on DVD. That happened in 2011.

So I am watching Tenko now. About 30 years after the program first was aired.  I actually know of someone alive here in Quebec who was in Singapore during the siege.. She is 90 plus years old. She worked as a VAD in a hospital, tending to the casualties of the two boats that were blown up. Her mother died escaping Singapore.

My grandmother, Dorothy Nixon, Changi Internee,  Commandant of Women's Camp, Double Tenth Incident Victim


It is proving a useful experience, watching Tenko. You see, I already know pretty much all there is to know about Changi etc and the fall of Singapore etc after researching my play exhaustively.

So now I can sit back and see how the writers of Tenko explain what's going on, the history,  using dialogue. At times it is an elegant exercise and at times a rather clumsy one.

I am trying to get started on my next play - about militant British Suffragettes coming to Montreal in 1911/12/13 to try to stir up trouble. (Would BBC Radio Four be interested?  It's pretty funny stuff.)

I know a lot about that too... and no one else (alive) knows...not as much as I do anyway.

I must try to do the same, explain a complex historical situation through dialogue and make it seem (somewhat) natural, and not like those episodes of the original Star Trek where Spock explains how the Enterprise works to Captain Kirk.