Injured soldiers’ story will start a week at Norwich’s Theatre Royal that will never be forgotten
16:55 03 February 2014
A marvellous thing happened this afternoon.
We’d organised a press and supporters’ day for The Two Worlds of Charlie F, a show that arrives here for the week of May 6. The play is about soldiers, and specifically soldiers who have been injured in Afghanistan.
The pre-publicity, in spite of the numerous five-star reviews and prizes awarded to the play, isn’t promising. Audiences instinctively shy away from material that might be difficult or overly challenging, and disability, in spite of the huge forward progress over the years in terms of acceptance, is still in search of its natural wide audience.
We heard today from Alice, the producer of The Two Worlds of Charlie F, from Cassidy, a Marine who’d lost a leg, and then from Swifty, who had lost both legs in 1991 in Ireland. Alice related the history of the production, how it blossomed from a two-night stand at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, to a longer West End run, to be a multi-award-winning international hit with productions planned in Canada, America and Australia.
Then Cassidy and Swifty – who are actors in the play – let us know who they were before their injuries, what happened to them during the period of recuperation, and then what they think their present and future is.
I don’t think I’ve ever spent a more light-hearted hour in the presence of three people who made me feel – as I sometime do – that what we host here at the Theatre Royal is capable of absolute greatness. I don’t mean the greatness that comes of fine acting, or strong singing, or the marvellous tightrope that carries the occasional artist from ordinariness to majesty. I mean the greatness of experiencing a visceral connection with the human spirit, its Shakespearean ability to jest in the face of threat, of measuring one’s own life against the elemental need of the human soul to survive and flourish.
By the end of the hour I knew that everyone in the room felt more or less as I did. We were in the presence of that tickling behind the eyeballs that is beyond coherent expression.
Put the date into your diary – May 6. It will be the start of a week at the Theatre Royal that I can tell even now will never be forgotten. As I said at the end of a short speech that I could barely articulate, the Theatre Royal will be proud, and is privileged, to host this company of soldiers, this happy band of brothers.