Fringe Box



Review: Injured Soldiers Shine In A Different Kind Of Theatre

Published on: 24 May, 2014
Updated on: 24 May, 2014

By Maria Rayner

I’ll be brutally honest, when I was invited to review The Two Worlds of Charlie F at G Live, I wasn’t keen. Despite the numerous awards it has received, I expected something worthy, patronising and amateurish. A play conceived as therapy for injured soldiers couldn’t be anything else, could it? Wrong.

The play, a result of project Bravo 22 Company, is so well acted that, without a sneaky look at the programme, I was unable to tell the difference between the “proper” actors and the wounded, injured and sick (WIS) personnel. One clue is the stumps that feature heavily, particularly in one memorable and hilarious scene.

The Two Worlds Of Charlie F has been playing at G Live is this week.

The Two Worlds Of Charlie F has been playing at G Live is this week.

Amputated limbs are funny? In this play they can be. Just as soldiers rely on jokes to help them through difficult situations, so a good play relies on, as one character puts it, “humour to diffuse a tense situation”. This is an honest and informative account of the life of a modern soldier: signing up, in conflict, injured, rehabilitating. A 21st century Journey’s End.

The frankness means that between the comedy the action is variously violent, thought-provoking and heart-breaking. It’s not mawkish; I often cry at films but the only part that brought tears to my eyes was when the letters from home (blueys) were received. We are reminded of the mixed feelings these messages bring – joy tinged with sadness, the casual thoughtlessness of a girlfriend, postal service delays.

Be prepared for traumatic scenes: when the injured Charlie, admirably played by Cassidy Little, is brought into hospital, a foot patrol blown up, nightmares contrasting with the false jollity of a rehab centre. This last scene is particularly well constructed.

There is also realistic squaddie-speak. The play is not suitable for those under 14. Sex and the survivor is spoken about openly: the loving and the sleazy kind. Encounters with civilians cover all the cliches.

Not all WIS personnel have visible scars. Major Daniel Thomas, played by Lt Col (Rtd) Hill, has shrapnel damage to his brain resulting in poor concentration and productive thinking. His informative history lecture on conflicts in Afganistan, hint at the futility of this campaign before it even started. Another lecture explains how an IED damages a human body.

My review could be twice as long. The impressive choreography, I loved the graceful wheelchair dancing; songs, live and soundtracks; the effect on families; did I mention the impressive acting? The poignant closing observation.

Other audience members described Charlie F as “very powerful”, “earthy”, “candid and tragic”. “I liked the rawness of the performances. The WIS told of their experiences; the mental and physical pain was plain to see.”

The Bravo 22 Company is at G Live until Saturday, May 24. They deserve to play to packed houses and receive more standing ovations. This is a professional group of people who have been given the opportunity to shine in a different theatre.


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