Weds 25 July
Words: Rachel Williams
With a 14 strong company of wounded soldiers alongside four professional actors, The Two Worlds Of Charlie F is a play with a difference . Whereas previous plays have politicised, moralized and dramatized interpretations of the recent wars, it is the soldier’s story, told and performed by them, that takes centre stage.
Unique and unforgettable, the play is the soldier’s view of service, injury and recovery. It travels from the moment they sign up, to the Afghan war, to the rehabilitation rooms of Headley Court and all that comes in between; the drug-induced hallucinations in hospital to the relationships and life after. Monologues that are both full of sharp wit and stark descriptions like “shit, skin-flakes and sand” (of Afghanistan), are a reminder of what they went through and what they are going through after.
Appearing on stage are 14 members of Bravo22 Company: a project for wounded, injured and sick service personnel, in recovery capability programmes that partners, amongst others, Theatre Royal Haymarket Masterclass and The Royal British Legion. Director Stephen Rayne was attracted to the project through its ambition as it was to go one step further and put service personnel on the stage. The project aims to providing a unique work placement within a new theatre company, and as producer Alice Driver said: “By being part of this process they would not only immerse themselves into a new industry but benefit from the effects of this theatre model: increased confidence, self-awareness and ultimately allowing them to step away from their injury.”
The play blends a level of verbatim and creative theatre, as writer Owen Sheers stated, it’s “not about bringing our intentions to it, [but having] a one-to-one conversation” with the director and cast engaging in weeks of unscripted rehearsals to draw out individual experiences, as well as the experiences of their families. Enough material was collected to allow him to write for an audience but stay true to the cast. Many situations, lines and phrases are used in the play that are completely authentic to moments experienced by the cast.
The story is told their way, with dark comic humour, dead pan observations and moments of unafraid revelations. From a new recruit unsure what to say to the amputee recruiting officer, to a lost limb possibly in one of a number of pubs and two of the wounded soldiers comparing the scars on their stumps. The play blends in elements of musical theatre, with moments of choral singing and choreographed movement as the recruits sing a song to get them through their ‘basic training’ and the nurses later burst into song about the soldiers medications. The choreography by Lily Phillips is creative, seamless and very well performed by all the cast.
Using ‘briefing-sessions’, flashbacks, video talking heads, the monologue’s and the choreography The Two Worlds of Charlie F, is a reminder that there is a modern equivalent to the history books. We find out why they joined: for a dare, to make parents proud and to make ends meet, how they have overcome impossible odds to survive and we find out who they are: ordinary men and women with an extraordinary job. They faced up to their tasks with courage, making heroic selfless decisions on behalf of their colleagues and people they do not know.
Info: www.shermancymru.co.uk / 02920 646900