Strikes again 

• The cast of Rolling Thunder Vietnam belt out a classic rock song. Photo by Lachlan Douglas

THE 2023 production of Rolling Thunder Vietnam could be the most poignant yet as it joins forces with Soldier On to support Aussie veterans and their families.

Since its world premiere in Brisbane in 2014, the hit homegrown show has struck a chord with its moving mix of laughter, tears and rousing rock songs from the era like We’ve Gotta Get Out of This Place and All Along The Watchtower.

The latest production is raising awareness of Soldier On, an independent not-for-profit supporting current and former Australian Defence Force personnel and their families.

Rolling Thunder Vietnam writer Bryce Hallett says the show was originally inspired by face-to-face interviews with Vietnam vets.

Rolling Thunder Vietnam continues to strike a chord with Vietnam veterans as well as contemporary veterans,” Hallett says.

“This is borne out in the often-emotional responses in meet-and-greet gatherings with veteran communities across Australia, be it in Perth, Newcastle, Wollongong or Caloundra. 

“The show has served as something of a healing force, each performance working its magic to help enable Vietnam veterans to open up about their experiences, usually with tears welling up in their eyes. Many times they share photographs. Sometimes they show their scars and talk about their injuries.”

During the show’s encore, actors thank Vietnam vets in the audience; a special moment that is met with loud applause and cheers.

Over the years, some young cast members have formed special friendships with veterans, exchanging letters and phone calls long after the tour has finished.

“At the opening of the tour at the Star Gold Coast, Christian Charisiou, who plays the role of the conscripted digger Andy, met a veteran named Viv from Stanthorpe, Queensland,” Hallett says.

“His experiences of the war mirrored aspects of the storytelling on stage – ‘Pretty much everything you said up there was spot on,’ he told Christian. ‘I was conscripted to Vietnam when I was 19.’

“Photographs taken when he was at Nui Dat, including one with him handling a rifle in a red-earthed pit lined with sandbags, and those where he’s shoulder-to-shoulder with fellow combat troops. The images are startling. 

“Viv looks impossibly young and angelic with his blond locks and shy smile – a sobering and stark reminder of innocent lives disrupted and upturned by war.”

The stirring production includes four giant video screens, classic rock music and a heartfelt story inspired by interviews with Vietnam vets and letters they wrote to family back home.

Adding to the authenticity is the use of actual uniforms worn in the Vietnam war, loaned to the show by Vietnam vet Brian Tateson, curator of memorabilia and vice president of Box Hill RSL.

The show also features the great photography of John Fairley and the late Peter Ward, who worked as photographers in the army’s PR unit and did their national service in Vietnam.

“The storytelling – wry, blunt, deprecating, forceful, anxious, funny and sad – is a distillation of hundreds of stories and anecdotes about the fragility and resilience of young soldiers caught up in the world’s first televised war,” Hallett says.

“The character and pulse of the narrative is at once intimate and authentic as it weaves in and around potent and poetic songs penned in the ‘60s and early ‘70s.”

Rolling Thunder Vietnam is at The Perth Concert Hall on May 19 7.30pm and May 20 2pm and 7.30pm. Tix at


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