Review: The Two Worlds of Charlie F, Theatre Royal Nottingham

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It’s easy to become numb to the pictures of war that we see on our television screens on an almost daily basis.

Seeing dead bodies sprawled in the streets and people horrifically injured has become something to barely flinch at from the comfort of our homes thousands of miles away.

But it is an altogether different story for the soldiers who witness these scenes for themselves out on the battlefield - and then have to deal with the consequences.

The Two Worlds of Charlie F, which is being performed at the Theatre Royal Nottingham this week, tells the story of real life soldiers and their personal experiences of war.

The play came about through a theatre project devised to help wounded, injured and sick military personnel and was given four and five-star reviews from the off.

This has led to tours of the UK and Canada, with this visit to Nottingham part of its second UK tour.

The play pulls no punches as it explores the terror and mental trauma that the soldiers endure as they try to come to terms with what they have seen and how it has affected them, physically and mentally.

It starts with a shocking silhouetted scene showing Charlie in a Birmingham hospital bed, confused, frightened and severely injured in Afghanistan.

The title role of Charlie Fowler is played by Marine Cassidy Little, who lost a leg in Afghanistan in 2011, and who guides us from scene to scene in his matter-of-fact and humorous style.

The fact that military veterans who have been injured in real-life combats are part of the cast makes the story more moving and creates a greater impact.

Hearing first-hand how the soldiers lost their legs to IEDs while saving comrades, received life-altering brain injuries from shrapnel piercing their brain and endure night terrors and post-traumatic stress due to what they have witnessed, is humbling and incredibly emotional.

But the play is not simply full of tales of woe and despair: the scenes showing the deep friendships formed between the men - and women - are touching, while the humorous dialogue and banter that gets them through their days on tour in Afghanistan and later through their rehabilitation at Headley Court, adds a reassuring view of humanity.

Coming face to face with these real-life war experiences really brings home what it is like being in the Army for the audience. This is a show not to be missed - whether you are military personnel or not.

The Two Worlds of Charlie F runs until Saturday.