This is an extraordinary and extremely important piece of theatre. Movingly and chillingly portrayed by four seasoned professional actors and twelve returned service personnel, this remarkable piece makes disturbingly clear the futility, horror and absolute stupidity of war – the absolute nadir of human activity. And the theatre is the ideal place and vehicle to show this.
Through conversation and collaboration with the soldiers who take part and become actors, the writer Daniel Keene has expertly distilled their own stories and experiences into a disquieting and poignant production, which should be seen by everybody. It should be seen especially by politicians and those who make decisions that lead to or take a society into war. They are not the ones who bring home the wounds (both seen and unseen) in those who are lucky enough to actually be able to begin to take the long way home.
This play, skilfully and sensitively directed by Stephen Rayne, balances the horrors and confusion, experienced by soldiers and their families alike, with some delightful and essential humour, without which the whole could be too heavy and distressing to bear. The acting by the soldiers is an absolute credit to them and to Rayne. It is frequently not possible to tell them apart from the professional actors. The excellent use of back projection (design by Renee Mulder), lighting (Damien Cooper) and sound (Steve Francis) clearly defines the separate scenes.
[pull_left]The ADF, the entrepreneurs, the crew, the actors and the soldiers themselves all deserved the spontaneous standing ovation. Be brave and see it![/pull_left]
Not only does The Long Way Home tell stories of the horrifying experiences our defence personnel have in that other “theatre”, it also shows how it is not only the service men and women who suffer. It shows how the implications for their families, friends, partners, children, and indeed themselves for long after their return, mess up lives and relationships far beyond the immediate combat situation. This is part of the hidden cost of war that seldom gets told or accounted for. Why should any society inflict on itself, and especially its young, eager and virile, this fruitless cost?
We see the loneliness and confusion of trying to return to whatever is normal, so removed from the experiences of the battleground. (“I’m a ghost. I don’t know who I am.” “All I hear is noise. Why is everyone screaming? I only want some peace and quiet”. “There’s a hollow in the middle of my chest and it’s filled with maggots. I want to know how to not be mental. I don’t know how to ask for help”). We see failed ambition, and the loss of identity and direction. We see the effect of lack of sleep and the coming of hallucinations. We also see something of the ineptitude of mechanically bureaucratic processes of recruitment into the army, and of attempts at rehabilitation. Peppered through all of this, is some delightful humour, just as is endemic in the Aussie psyche under pressure, even though some of the comedy turns to pathos.
The ADF, the entrepreneurs, the crew, the actors and the soldiers themselves all deserved the spontaneous standing ovation to which this first night audience was instantly inspired. And Adelaide audiences don’t give those away lightly. Be brave and see it!
Footnote: If saturation level of swearing and profanity are likely to upset you, don’t stay away: toughen up and get real. That’s what these soldiers did.