Ahead of Remembrance Day, Jonathan Lewis’ acclaimed play Soldier On re-opens this week for an extended five-week season at The Other Palace. In our series of featured interviews, ex 42 Commando and injured veteran Cassidy Little tells us how every day of the year is Remembrance Day for him. Time to get booking!
Following a sell-out national tour and London premiere earlier this year, Soldier On, written and directed by Jonathan Lewis, runs at The Other Palace from 24 October to 24 November 2018, with a post-show Q&A chaired by MyTheatreMates co-founder Terri Paddock on 29 October and a press night on 30 October.
The play examines what really happens when military personnel leave the army. It follows the journey of a group of soldiers who start acting to help them recover from PTSD. Their words do the talking in what has been deemed “The Full Military Monty”.
Putting the play’s premise into action, the 16-strong cast comprises serving and ex-service personnel, including injured veterans, working alongside other actors, in Amanda Faber’s award-winning theatre company The Soldiers’ Arts Academy cic.
In conversation with… Cassidy Little
Military veteran Cassidy Little reprises his performance as Woody in Soldier On, which he performed earlier this year at London’s Playground Theatre and on tour. Cassidy’s other stage credits include the title role in Owen Sheers The Two Worlds of Charlie F. In 2015, he won the audience-voted People’s Strictly dance competition.
Can you tell us about your military experience?
I joined the Royal Marine Commandos and was deployed on Herek 5 with M company, then came back and became a medic, after which I was deployed with J company. I was injured on that tour [Little lost a leg in an IED blast] and as a result, I spent a couple years rehabilitating before being medically discharged.
How has your time in the service affected your life today?
I’m 37, and spent 10 years in the service, so more than a quarter of my life. The organisation I joined in the Armed Forces is internationally renowned for being particularly difficult, and it changed my life enormously. It was home for a long time, so it changed me deeply. I learnt a lot. It made me a more responsible human being. A stronger human being, a more resilient human being, a more deadly human being. It was great.
How did you first hear about Soldier On & the Soldiers’ Arts Academy?
I’m on the board of the Soldiers Arts Academy and have worked with Amanda Faber, who is producer, since 2012’s The Two Worlds of Charlie F. I’ve done a lot of workshops for her, and a couple of Shakespeare pieces. Amanda and Jonathan Lewis (the writer and director) pulled me aside one day and said, it would be great if you could be involved. So I did the reading and I liked it. Then, after the reading, we did a tour, and I decided to stick with it because it’s fun.
What’s your personal highlight of Soldier On so far?
One of the big highlights of Soldier On is that you are creating a family, you’re creating what the military left behind. Getting on stage is quite nerve-wracking, very adrenaline-filled, just like being in a fire-fight. It’s not quite the same but pretty similar. I know people who would rather be shot at than get on stage in front of three hundred people. As a company, we have to come together and trust each other and so the highlight for me is the family that I’ve created, the people that I care deeply about that are in this show and the time that we spend together, both on and off stage.
What are your feelings about performing at The Other Palace?
You know, it doesn’t matter which theatre I’m performing at, I’m going to be nervous because I’m nervous before every performance. But it’s an honour. It’s pretty incredible, a little show like this, being put on in London. How many actors can say that they cut their teeth treading the boards in London?
How significant does it feel to you to be doing this at the centenary of the end of the First World War?
In all honesty, it doesn’t feel like that much of a big deal to me. It’s interesting because we still feel the waves, the loss, for the First World War. We still feel that now. And into the Second World War, into the conflicts that led up to the Cold War and in the Middle East and all the conflicts that we’ve had, we still look back at the First World War. There were entire generations of people, of men that were lost in those fields, entire generations. There were towns that sent every man they could find from the age of twelve, and 98% of them would die 15 minutes into battle.
We’re still feeling the effects, even though there are people born every day, and there’s a new generation, the selfie generation, who is plugged into Instagram and Facebook, they will still feel the freedom that those people fought for. They will benefit from what they gave, they are benefitting every day from it. So putting a show on for them doesn’t change that for me.
You guys, as civilians, get Remembrance Day once a year, 11th November, where you all wear a poppy, but actually you all kind of forget for the rest of the year. It’s our responsibility, the people who have survived conflict, to remember every day. And so, is there a significance for me performing this play in November? No. No, because I remember every day. I make a point of remembering.
Anything you’d like to add?
You can’t make a theatre piece about the military without including the military sense of humour. And this is a very, very funny piece because Jonny’s kept it as authentic as possible. Yes, there are dance pieces and there are singing pieces, but there are scenes, long scenes where it’s just banter, flying everywhere. So if anything, you should come and see Soldier On because it’s really funny.
Soldier On runs from 25 October to 24 November 2018 at The Other Palace, 12 Palace Street, London SW1E 5JA. Performances run Mondays to Saturdays at 7.30pm, with Thursday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm. Tickets are priced £24.50-£49.50. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE