Having read the play a few weeks ago, and coincidentally watched an interview featuring two of the soldiers in the play on Lorraine, I couldn’t have been more excited to watch The Two Worlds of Charlie F at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley.
The stage commands our attention with an earth- (and nerve-) shattering explosion that informs us immediately that we are going to enter the war zone. We meet Charlie, played by Cassidy Little, a Canadian soldier who has lost the greater part of his lower right leg. He takes us from hospital bed to battlefield to the physio room to his solace, all of which are honestly and eloquently presented to us in this wonderfully unique piece of theatre.
Owen Sheers’s play, directed by Stephen Rayne, seams together the real moments in which these men and women decide to become soldiers, and how their lives fight forward through the stark and mostly unromantic reality of ‘a soldier’s life’. The cast is a mix of actors and real soldiers. The camaraderie between the men and women is as authentic and deep as the subject matter. We learn the science of uniform and protection; how relationships are bent out of shape, lost and found, and looked at with time’s altering eyes. And we are told the details of the IED explosions that have stolen limbs, and changed forever the internal map of these men and women.
Maurillia Simpson shares a song with us from her country; her Caribbean cadence soars through the theatre and her spirit and humour are continually present through the play. We witness a soldier holding her own amongst the men and never giving up on her dream. Terri Ann Bobb-Baxter portrays the younger Maurillia beautifully, together with the other characters that she switches between during the show, each with a clarity and distinction of their own. The show uses various theatrical approaches to intermingle the soldiers and their experiences, all very simple and unassuming in their conveyance.
Songs written by Jason Carr are sung in the waiting room in the hospital and in Afghanistan during the moments of stillness. A particular highlight for me is the dance choreographed by Lilly Phillips in which the soldiers and the women in partnership express true human fibre with every movement.
This is a genre unlike any other that I’ve come across: real life meets the stage face-to-face. Actors and soldiers become performers alike. And the soldiers, with their bodies and minds altered by the twists of fate, present themselves and their stories beneath the burning bulb of an Afghanistan sun, now shining as a light from the stage they land upon.
Each and every one of us in the varied audience took a piece of courage from the men and women in the Bravo 22 Company. Resilience, loyalty and love are what these soldiers and their families run on, beating red as the blood that links us all. A poppy adorned my jacket as soon as I left the theatre. Respect to all involved.
The Two Worlds of Charlie F runs at the Churchill Theatre until 26 April, then carries on its UK tour. For more information please visit The Two Worlds of Charlie F website.