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The Return of the Soldier

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Based on the novella by Rebecca West, this new musical deals with the trauma of shell shock and how it affects a young officer sent home early during the First World War with selective amnesia. Written in 1918 at the beginning of what was to become an illustrious career, West’s original touches on themes of class and introduces a contemporary audience to the world of Freudian psychoanalysis.

Charles Miller’s lush, often romantic score embraces the period and enhances the emotional weight of the story while Tim Sanders’ lyrics, if not flawless, are filled with imagery and flashes of invention. As melodic as the score may be, there are moments of melodrama in the book which would benefit from a few revisions to suit the intimacy of this chamber musical better.

An exceptional cast is led by Laura Pitt-Pulford as Margaret Grey, who continues to prove a leading lady of strength and complexity. Am I What You Are To Me might be a clumsy lyric but Pitt-Pulford affords it the power to become a stand-out ballad in the show. Stewart Clarke is a dominant, occasionally overpowering presence on stage as returning officer Christopher Baldry while Michael Matus as Margaret’s husband William and, later, Dr Anderson adds occasional moments of humour and colour to this bittersweet tale.

Originally part of the From Page To Stage Festival showcasing new musical theatre, this full staging benefits from Charlotte Westenra’s confident direction and is rich in period detail thanks to designer Simon Anthony Wells.

The Return of the Soldier at the Jermyn St Theatre

  • Jermyn Street Theatre, London
  • September 2-20, PN September 4
  • Author: Rebecca West novel, Tim Sanders book/lyrics, Charles Miller music
  • Director: Charlotte Westenra
  • Design: Simon Anthony Wells set/costume, Steve Lowe lighting
  • Musical director: Simon Lambert
  • Choreographer: Matthew Cole
  • Technical: Ellen Dawson stage manager, Anna Lewis costume supervisor, Anthony Newton set co-ordinator, Lucinda Francis casting
  • Cast: Stewart Clarke, Laura Pitt-Pulford, Michael Matus, Zoe Rainey, Charlie Langham
  • Producer: Aria Entertainment, Guy James, Katy Lipson, Penny Rock Theatre Productions, Jermyn Street Theatre
  • Running time: 2hrs 15mins

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The Stage
The Stage is a British weekly newspaper and website covering the entertainment industry, and particularly theatre. It was founded in 1880. It contains news, reviews, opinion, features, and recruitment advertising.