Soldier On review – veterans and actors join forces to tell military tales

The Other Palace, LondonEx-service personnel work alongside professional actors in Jonathan Lewis’s ingenious piece of meta-theatreWritten and directed by Jonathan Lewis, this is a play about the military community. What makes it unusual is that professional actors work alongside veterans in a show jointly presented by the Soldiers’ Arts Academy, which is dedicated to helping ex-service personnel fulfil their artistic potential. When, however, we were asked in a curtain speech to think of the Academy as “the Invictus Games of the arts”, I felt, as a critic, I was being put in an impossible position. Is one being asked to review a play or applaud a cause?That said, Lewis has created an ingenious piece of meta-theatre in which we watch a harassed director, convincingly played by David Solomon, persuading a group of ex-combatants and their families to tell their stories. We quickly grasp that post-traumatic stress disorder has a devastating effect on the families of those affected: wives have to cope with violent or estranged husbands, mothers feel alienated from sons. There are also examples of a communal spirit: the most moving involves a colonel, suffering from prostate cancer, recounting how a colleague covered up his involuntary urination at a memorial service. Continue reading…

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