The Other Palace, London – until 24 November 2018
Written and directed by Jonathan Lewis, this funny and powerfully honest production gives a vivid insight into the lives of those who work in the military and their families left behind.
This honest, heartfelt and detailed piece of theatre deserves to be seen by as many people as possible as it is a piece that manages to cover every aspect of the trauma and pain suffered by those whose lives involve the military. It is rare to come across a play of this kind that is so honest and well grounded in its intent that it leaves you wanting to know even more about the characters.
Soldier On follows the lives of several veterans and those whose partners and families are in the armed forces brought together to try to rehabilitate and move forward with their lives with the help of a director wanting to stage a play about all of their experiences. Based on true stories, gathered by Jonathan Lewis over five years, Soldier On allows each character a chance to share their story and their pain and suffering from all its different viewpoints.
The play has a great structure to it that allows each of the stories to merge perfectly from one scene to the next, while having a strong sense of humour that’s perfectly balanced with the heartbreaking honesty in which the characters express themselves throughout.
But there are times when the play feels as though it only offers simple snapshots of the characters lives – in particular characters such as Tanya and Trees feel slightly overlooked in places – that means there isn’t always enough time to get a real sense of just how they are trying to move forward with their lives. There are times when the production feels uncertain of itself, slightly disjointed – particularly when there are physical theatre sequences that although highlight the rawness of the piece, also distracts from the flow of the stories being told.
There are so many moments to enjoy, enhanced by the knowledge that some of the cast are ex-military – although it is never noticeable who is and who isn’t – that adds authenticity, depth and emotion to the play. There is a great bond between them all that really reflects the conflicting emotions that the characters go through during the course of the play. Particular performances that stood out came from Nicholas Clarke as Jacko, Robert Portal as Tom and Ellie Nunn as Sophie – all have particular moments that really exposes the rawness of their character’s situations that include dealing with PTSD that are captured beautifully and meaningfully by the performances of all of the cast.
Essentially, Soldier On is a message of hope for those who have experienced what these characters have been through. It has been sensitively created and directed by Jonathan Lewis and is a profoundly moving piece of theatre that deserves to be seen by as many people as possible.
By Emma Clarendon
Soldier On continues to play at The Other Palace until the 24th November. For more information visit: https://www.theotherpalace.co.uk/whats-on/soldier-on