On Friday 23rd May I arrived at GLive in Guildford, by myself, to watch the touring production of ‘Charlie F’.
I felt pretty lonely whilst everyone in the impressive marble foyer drank and chatted away with their friends, but as soon as the show started I forgot about everyone else in the room anyway.
‘Charlie F’ is a devised-style piece of theatre that tells the real life stories of British servicemen and women. Incorporating song and dance, it tells the stories of their time serving in the army, their relationships back home, rehabilitation after their injuries and the traumatic symptoms that are left behind.
Marine Cassidy Little opened the show with a poignant introduction to himself and the piece and I found it very hard to believe that he wasn’t a trained performer as he had such natural confidence and charisma. However, when he walked on stage with one leg missing it was very clear to see that this is a man that has been through things that we, sitting safely at home, can not comprehend and his confidence comes from a bravery that has spurred him on to do something of importance, despite his injuries.
The cast consists half of servicemen and women and half of professional actors; the actors multiroling as family members and younger versions of the veterans. Despite the actors being trained, you could be forgiven for mistaking the servicemen and women for having dramatic backgrounds too (well, they do, but a totally different kind of drama).
Darren “Swifty” Swift in particular was a pleasure to watch. His warm, good humoured nature made him instantly likeable, and a stand out moment of the show had to be in the harrowing re-telling of the moment both of his legs were blown off. His acting was so real that it felt like it were actually happening right then. The panic in his eyes and his heart-wrenching pleading and proclaiming he was going to die made my breath catch. I could not ever imagine the horror of that situation and it is truly brave of him to relive that every night he performs.
The show’s message and terrible stories are matched with humour and inspiration. There will be sequences that are light hearted and enjoyable that will suddenly be turned into earth shattering scenes of destruction and death, plagued by the deafening sound of bombs. This show truly keeps you on your feet and demonstrates with its abruptness how quickly your sheltered life can suddenly become dangerous. That is what they lived with for years and what thousands of servicemen and women are living in to this day.
The show is nearing the end of its tour and is only scheduled to play Colchester, Cornwall and Manchester now; get your tickets fast if you live nearby.
It is a thought-provoking and entertaining evening that really opens your eyes to the things that we know about but choose not to think about. The full audience standing ovation at the end of the show says it all and I am sure that will be the same case in every performance they do.
For information on the show go to www.charlie-f.com.