A play based on the experiences of army veterans – who also perform in the play – has won Amnesty International’s Freedom of Expression award at the Edinburgh Fringe.
The Two Worlds of Charlie F from Bravo 22 Company was written by Owen Sheers and directed by Stephen Rayne. It won against an unprecedented 112 nominated productions and a shortlist of six. The award is given to an outstanding piece of theatre in the fringe which carries a human rights message.
Neil Cooper, Herald critic and member of the judging panel, told The Stage: “This was not an obvious winner. It is a British Legion-backed show about veterans of Afghanistan who have come back to Britain and been let down by the people they have been defending. The playwright and director have knitted together these experiences of real life veterans and put them on stage in a compendium which is something like what Blackwatch did.”
Explaining that the production uses veterans who are still serving in the army as performers, playwright Owen Sheers added that he had become interested in “socially engaged or applied theatre” while working on National Theatre Wales’ The Passion in Port Talbot with Michael Sheen.
He said: “I saw this as an incredibly rare opportunity to marry the documentary element of having the real guys on stage with all the magic that theatre can do. I should say that this is very much not verbatim theatre. That would have been easy for them – I interview and they repeat the interviews on stage.
“We were asking much more than that. From the start I realised – and Stephen Rayne felt the same – that this would only work if was a fucking good play. It has to be about the play. So it is verbatim in voice, but these are written speeches, out of my head from the foundation of what they told me.”
The Bravo 22 Company is a professional theatre company, set up to aid the recovery of wounded, injured and sick service personnel using a theatrical learning environment. It was created by The Theatre Royal Haymarket Masterclass Trust and The Royal British Legion, in partnership with the Defence Recovery Capability. Service personnel rehearse, produce and perform in a new piece of theatre based on their own experiences.