Soldiers act out hard reality in Owen Sheers' The Two Worlds of Charlie F
'No make-up, no lighting, no trickery' in hard-hitting Edinburgh play
This article is from 2012.
Six and a half years after abandoning a career in stand-up comedy for the Royal Marines, Lance Corporal Cassidy Little is making his Edinburgh debut. In 2011, Little was injured by an IED in Afghanistan. While recuperating at defence medical rehabilitation unit Headley Court, he was approached to join Bravo 22 Company, a new theatre project run by Masterclass, the in-house charity at London’s Theatre Royal Haymarket.
‘I kind of thought it was going to be 60 people in the audience, just friends and family,’ admits Little of the first live performances he appeared in. ‘I had no idea it was going to explode into what it is. I came on board and thought it would be a great distraction.’ This distraction became The Two Worlds of Charlie F, a play that received universal critical acclaim when it was performed in London earlier this year with Little in the title role. ‘I certainly didn’t expect to get a standing ovation in the Theatre Royal Haymarket,’ he says. ‘And looking out into the audience and seeing not a dry eye: it was an incredible reaction.’
Bravo 22 Company is the brainchild of Alice Driver, creative producer of Masterclass, and was inspired by a visit to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, where injured military personnel are treated. ‘Advances in medicine mean that so many more people are surviving, but often with very serious injuries,’ she explains. ‘I felt that this group of individuals could really benefit from a theatre project.’
Support from the Royal British Legion, Sir Trevor Nunn and actor Ray Winstone helped Driver convince both the Ministry of Defence and military personnel that the project was worthwhile. The play is scripted by Owen Sheers, who devised The Passion with Michael Sheen last year. But it’s overwhelmingly based on the real life experiences of the military men and women who perform it. ‘What you see is reality,’ Driver says. ‘It’s a story told by characters, but essentially someone on stage is telling you how they lost their legs. There’s no make-up, no lighting, no trickery. It’s very, very powerful.’
As well as the actual loss of body parts which soldiers suffer from, the psychological trauma of warfare is another area of concern. ‘I think this work has brought a lot of people out of their depression,’ Driver adds. ‘Others have just realised that they can go on and do anything, and are a lot more accepting of who they are and their injuries.’
For Little, the best thing has been having a project to direct his energy towards. ‘Like it or lump it, it’s a horrible thing to happen to a human being. There are degrees of injuries here, but no degree of devastation. But it all comes down to the same thing, which is don’t focus on negatives: having to learn to walk again, learn to interact with society again. Instead, focus on something positive. And this was an incredibly positive experience and became a perfect opportunity to distract myself from the really long and really hard road that so many of us have to walk now.’