The First World War had a major presence on the Australian stage, particularly in vaudeville theatre, before and after 1918; and following the Armistice, many variety shows were performed by diggers themselves.
The extent of their popularity surprised historians, who have been investigating the phenomenon since a bequest to the Melbourne Arts Centre in 2001 brought to light a collection of original comedy scripts from one of the leading companies, Pat Hanna's Famous Diggers.
Vaudeville was performed to large audiences right across Australia, and the persistence of its war-related material throws an intriguing light on community response to the war. There were jokes about the Kaiser, the officers, the mud and the rain, as well as challenging portrayals of ex-servicemen's difficulties in adapting to civilian life. The theatrical material joins the growing knowledge of soldiers' often ironic responses in song and verse to the experiences of war.
On the battlefront, and back in the music halls and theatres in Australia, humour and satire emerged as a powerful tool for both soldiers and civilians who had experienced one of longest and most violent conflicts in modern history, and its enduring consequences.