SOLDIER ON | London, Playground Theatre

The Soldiers’ Arts Academy CIC provides a platform for veterans injured (mentally or physically) during their time in service. It enables them to recover, to train in the arts, and to transition back into work. Five veterans and others from the military merge seamlessly with professional actors to make a huge ensemble cast of nineteen; the roaring standing ovation was for all of them.

Written and directed by Jonathan Lewis, the casting has nonetheless left an indelible mark. Details like the soldier’s wife at home, rehearsing in her mind the cold knock of “I’m sorry to inform you”, are painfully observed and very moving. A ballet sequence where a one-legged ex-soldier (Cassidy Little) gracefully lifts his partner says more than words could.

Overall though, it’s a very funny comedy. In a profoundly ‘meta’ move, the story centres around director Harry (David Solomon) and his constantly thwarted attempt to put together a devised piece about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the military, starring ex-military performers. With the story taking place largely in a village hall, the no-set, barn-like Playground Theatre works brilliantly.

With loud bangs and gunfire, this new work is (ironically) not necessarily suitable for sufferers of PTSD. The short and varied scenes whip along, but at two and a half hours, it’s clear that some parts could be cut. Overall though, a very exciting new work and an unforgettable experience.

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