Written by award-winning poet and playwright Owen Sheers and performed by serving military, veteran soldiers as well as professional actors, The Two Worlds of Charlie F is a hard hitting, thought provoking piece of theatre. Supported by public funding from the National Lottery via Arts Council England, the production offers the audience a real, gritty and honest insight into life before, during and after military service.
From the hopes and dreams of school girl Maurillia Simpson in Trinidad and Tobago who aspires one day to ‘become a soldier and live where the queen lives’ to Canadian Corporal Charlie Fowler who we first see behind a hospital screen, shouting abuse at nurses who are trying to help him in the midst of his aggressive confusion as he regains consciousness after losing a leg during his second tour in Afghanistan. Directed by Stephen Rayne this production is punchy, in your face and doesn’t apologise for speaking the truth, war is hard, hot, terrifying and ugly yet the company also show the camaraderie, wit, laughter and the deep bonds that being brothers and sisters in arms creates.
It’s not difficult to see why this piece won the 2012 Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award. In one of the many moving scenes we hear former infantry soldier Dan ‘Shawty’ Shaw recall the day his military career was cut short when he lost both legs in an IED explosion. Yes, he may have lost limbs that day, ‘but I saved my best friend’s life, do you know what it feels like to care for someone that much?’
As well as the battle to recovery we witness individual battles to belong, to slot back into old lives and regain positions in families who have seemingly managed without them for so long. The majority of the females in this production represent the women left behind, lost, worried and desperately trying to get inside the minds of the tormented and tortured men who have returned. Anthony Lamble’s sparse set is perfectly suited to the piece and allows the focus to remain on the powerful stories being presented. The Two Worlds of Charlie F is a great piece of theatre, the insight it gives its audience is frank, honest, heart-warming and touching, well deserving of the standing ovation it received.
Showing at The Opera House until Saturday 14th June.