The stories of wounded war veterans come to life in The Two Worlds of Charlie F. at the Princess of Wales Theatre
The Two Worlds of Charlie F. is part of the 2013/2014 Off-Mirvish season. The first thing I noticed last night when I arrived at the Princess of Wales Theatre were a lot of military brass in dress uniforms, milling around and chatting in the lobby. Not your usual opening night theatre audience.
The second thing I noticed were the cast bios in the program. Name, rank, company, and injury. Definitely not your usual cast.
The Two Worlds of Charlie F. was originally developed as part of the healing process for wounded, injured, and sick veterans of the British Armed Services. It was conceived to give them a voice and boost their confidence and self-esteem. In total 32 service personnel were involved in creating the piece. Playwright Owen Sheers interviewed each of them and turned their stories into a script.
There are 15 people in the cast, eight of them are veterans. I was going to say that the other seven are actors but that’s not true. All of them are actors. Some better than other, but actors all the same.
Cassidy Little, a Canadian serving in the Royal Marines who plays Charlie F., is wonderful. He owns the stage. He’s relaxed and confident and delivers a powerful performance.
The Two Worlds of Charlie F. is part fiction, part documentary, part musical, and wholly compelling theatre.
The show opens with Charlie F. coming out of an induced coma and believing that he has been captured by the Taliban. He thinks the nurses and doctors are the enemy and that his wife and mother have been captured.
It was difficult to watch and harrowing when I realized that it was what had happened to him. It was part of his story. It was what my grandson calls “for real life”.
In the next scene the veterans introduce themselves. Each one says their rank and company their injuries, and where they were injured. As each one is finished they stay on the stage and whisper the information over and over as the next person comes on. It was quite chilling.
The show isn’t nearly as dark as this makes it sound. There are some very funny moments.
We learn why they enlisted. I was surprised at how many – given the small number of people – enlisted because it was what they did in their family. I don’t know if this is a British thing or if it is true in Canada as well.
The two things that really stood out for me were the love they all had for their fellow soldiers and how their families were effected by their injuries.
They felt that they were fighting for their mates. Some of them were seriously wounded trying to save a friend. Having fellow veterans to talk with was a bit part of the process of recovery for them.
There was a scene that really brought home to me the impact on families. One of the wives says “I have it (PTSD) too.” She goes on to say that it was five o’clock in the morning when someone came to the door to tell her that her husband had been seriously injured. Now she wakes up at five o’clock every morning. She said it’s engraved on her body clock for life.
It takes a special kind of bravery to stand on a stage in front of hundreds of people and delivery the story of a very difficult part of your life. The eight veterans in the cast are very brave people.
My only quibble about the show are the musical numbers. I didn’t think they advanced the story at all and really wouldn’t have missed them if they weren’t there.
The Two Worlds of Charlie F. is powerful theatre.
- The Two Worlds of Charlie F. is playing at the Princess of Wales Theatre (300 King Street West) until March 9th
- Show times – Tuesday through Saturday at 8 pm, Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday at 2 pm
- Ticket prices range from $45.00 to $79.00
- Tickets are available online, by phone at 416.872.1212 or toll-free at 1.800.461.3333, or in person at the box office
Photo of The Company of The Two Worlds of Charlie F. by Cylla von Tiedemann