Pros: Strong characters with important stories. Performed with dedication and conviction.
Cons: The representation of outside characters, recruiters, parents, other soldiers could have been more consistent. The choral aspects of the performance did sometimes take you outside of what was otherwise a very believable space.
The Lonely Soldier Monologues makes the world face and own up to some horrible truths. A verbatim play (in which real people’s words and stories are told ‘verbatim’ through the platform of the actors and the stage), Helen Benedict’s script gives voice to seven women, all of whom served in the American armed forces in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. The characters are all real people, though names are changed and actors are saying their words.
Each woman leads you through her story. Where she came from, why she joined up, what she experienced on tour, what she wished had never happened, what she wishes she could forget and what the return to civilian life was/is like under the title of veteran. The stories, before the women even touch on war, can be disturbing – harrowing even, but paint a picture as to the paths that can lead to a career in the armed forces. This curation of human histories is careful to also include the stories of women from a range of backgrounds with varied reasons for joining the military.
Unfortunately however, their experiences while in the forces were all too similar – having to prove themselves against the ‘male soldiers’, being blamed for their own harassments and severe maltreatment. And their initial time as veterans is not any easier, many of them suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, not understanding what was happening to them, not having any support, having trouble getting the money they were promised to go to university. The production presents a misogynist, under-resourced, hierarchical governmental system with a critically thinking female membership that rightfully challenges what they were apart of and why.
Direction by Prav MJ has elicited extremely touching performances by the eight actors (seven stories with one extra actor acting as the external characters in each woman’s individual story). Some choral aspects of the performances were not as impactful as they perhaps could have been and did at times take you outside an otherwise very intimate and delicate space. However, the calibre of the performances are such that you feel the actual soldiers, the owners of these stories and these lives, are standing in front of you, reaching out, imploring you to listen and demanding to finally be heard.
The overall impact of the production is powerful and stirring and as a person, regardless of gender, should make you question – angry even – at how these stories could be real, how an organisation created to protect a country cannot even protect its own workforce. This show stands for what theatre should be about: giving power to the powerless, voices to the voiceless, acting as a platform for demanding action and change.
Presented by: PMJ Productions
Directed by: Prav MJ
Written by: Helen Benedict
Booking Until: 16 May
Box Office: 020 7240 6283
Booking Link: http://www.thecockpit.org.uk/show/the_lonely_soldier_monologues