Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Wednesday, 26 March 2014
The Long Way Home, March 27-29, 2014 ****
Presented by Sydney Theatre Company (STC) & Australian Defence Force (ADF) Merlyn Theatre, Malthouse
until March 29, 2014 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on March 27 Stars: **** Review also published in Herald Sun online on Fri March 28, 2014 and later in print. KH
In The Long Way Home, the
true stories of injured Australian servicemen and women merge with Daniel
Keene’s incisive writing to create a moving and gritty play.
Real stories told by real
people have a resonance and truth that actors can only dream of, and seeing 12 service
personnel performing their own and others’ painful stories is compelling,
provocative, sometimes funny and often heart-rending.
Supported by 5
professional actors, the 12 service persons play a parade of characters based
loosely on themselves and others, tell stories about the aftermath of war, the
aching experience of recovering from injury and facing ongoing physical,
emotional and psychological trauma.
Director Stephen Rayne,
based this show on his UK production and, with Keene as writer, they ran a five
week workshop with a group of participants, exploring ideas and experiences,
and developing acting skills which led to Keene’s script and a period of
This process not only
delivers an undeniably riveting and provocative performance but it also may
assist these servicemen and women in their recovery.
Keene’s script is
episodic, gripping and bold with plenty of swearing, raw comedy and personal
stories woven together with sensitive, earthy and often
Renée Mulder’s sparse, flexible design allows the stage
to transform into multiple locations that transport us to Afghanistan, a city
streetscape at night, a military hospital ward or a soldier’s living room.
We witness soldiers
consumed by boredom or fear as they stand watch in the desert, children playing
war games, recruitment officers and homecomings.
There are affecting
scenes of two men who return from war to discover that they are profoundly transformed,
cannot connect with their wives and now suffer delusions, nightmares, depression,
sexual dysfunction and anxiety.
We see the agonising,
recurrent scene of a young soldier emerging from a coma and achingly slowly
regaining consciousness, his voice and the use of his limbs.
Keene gives this young
man the voice of a poet whose first, almost inaudible, inarticulate words are a
beautifully lyrical verse about a soldier’s struggle.
In repeated incidences,
we see these injured servicemen unable ask for help or unwilling to accept it, which
forces us to recognise that rehabilitation is not simply about being in
hospital and taking your meds.
In a provocative,
poignantly written and performed vignette, a soldier delivers a stand-up comedy
routine that degenerates into a fierce and finally tragic performance.
heart–breaking scenes are some hilarious moments, including a military spruiker’s
PR presentation that parodies the soldier’s trained, automatic response to say,
There is power and
passion in this production that focuses our attention on the crucial issues of the
illness and recovery of those often invisible men and women who serve their
country only to come home permanently altered.
From Media Release:
Long Way Home, a new play by Daniel Keene, is an historic
collaboration between Sydney Theatre Company (STC) and the Australian Defence
Force (ADF), coming to Melbourne in March for three nights only as part of an
extensive national tour.
"Featuring 13 real soldiers on
stage alongside four professional actors, The
Long Way Home conveys the personal stories of Australian servicemen and
women who have been wounded, injured or become ill during ADF operations in
Iraq, Afghanistan and East Timor.
"In 2013, 15 servicemen and women
participated in an intensive research and development program at STC sharing
their experiences with director Stephen Rayne, playwright Daniel Keene and
professional actors to shape this new play. 13 of these participants, ranging
from Private to Brigadier, now perform with the four professional actors in The Long Way Home, a unique theatre
experience reflecting Australia’s recent experience of war.
Long Way Home will, in the centenary year of the start of the
Great War, give audiences a unique insight into the challenges these men and
women and their families confront.
"The servicemen and women
participating in the program have sustained a range of physical and
psychological wounds or injuries and the development process and the production
itself supports their rehabilitation and recovery."