THE Two Worlds of Charlie F gave Marine Cassidy Little something to focus on. He was at Headley Court in 2011 after his leg had been blown off in Afghanistan when he met the show's writers.
He said following an injury of this kind you don't know who you are any more but this ground breaking show gave him back his sense of being. It is coming to Aylesbury next month.
In the centenary anniversary of the outbreak of World War 1, The Two Worlds of Charlie F, which was first performed in January 2012 at two charity fund-raising evenings at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, will start a new UK tour in 2014 at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre.
The play is a soldier's view of service, injury and recovery from the war in Afghanistan to the morphine induced physiotherapy rooms. It will be performed by medically discharged military personnel, as well as professional actors.
Cassidy plays the lead role of Marine Charlie Fowler and has been part of it from the beginning when he first met writer Owen Sheers.
He said: "I was at Headley Court. It was about two and a half months after being injured in Afghanistan. I was told there is a writer and director in the common room who are thinking about doing a small in-theatre show about injured service men before and after injury. Why don’t you give it a go? I thought let’s do it.
"That is the neat part of the show- we were all involved in the writing. Owen Sheers wrote it- he is a beautiful poet- an amazing poet. He imposed himself in with us. He didn’t live with us and brush our hair. He got involved every day for hours and hours and just asked us questions.
"Not questions like what’s your favourite colour or do you hide crayons when you are bored but tell me about some funny things that happen in the forces; tell me things you regret. He went through a long list of things like that."
Cassidy, who was born in Canada and did performance arts in the US, said Owen then went away and came up with the script for the play. So how did he feel when he saw the final result?
He said: "I was a little agitated- he had given 80 per cent of the dialogue to me. I was kind of sitting there on enough drugs to kill a small animal at the time. I said What are you doing? You are killing me here. How am I going to upload this into this polluted brain of mine."
But of course, he did, and the show has had an amazing response. The tour, which will be supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, will be supporting The Royal British Legion by raising funds at each performance.
The cast will also include ex-servicemen and women Bombardier (Rtd) Gareth Crabbe, Rifleman (Rtd) Daniel Shaw, Darren "Swifty" Swift and Lieutenant Col (Rtd) Stewart Hill. So does he get nervous before a show?
Cassidy said: "There is always a part of me that thinks at this one performance I will be judged and our stories will be judged. And I worry they would be not cheers of approval but rather because it is a forces show with a bunch of disabled people on stage.
"But I have to be confident. Like at past performances there have been standing ovations every night and on their feet every time we have done. And they are not standing because we are disabled but because it is a good show. I have to believe that."
He moved to Britain to become a stand up comedian, and then because of a bet, he joined the Marines. Really? A bet?
He said: "I am a man who likes getting in the river and seeing where it goes. If I get bored I just paddle faster- that is simple.
"I was given the opportunity to come to the UK and not because I thought I might join the Marines or be a stand up comedian but because I was jumping in the river to see where it goes."
He has been in the Marines for eight years and was on his second tour with 42 Commando near Nad-e-Ali in Helmand in May 2011 when the medic was blow up after his patrol set off an old IED. Two Marines were killed.
Cassidy, who was the poster boy for the Royal British Legion's poppy appeal last year, said: "I don’t block things out- I explore everything. I have no regrets. If I had to do everything again then I would step two feet to the right instead. "I lost some good friends that day. That is the part I feel sad about. If I could change anything I would change that."
And he said the play gave him something to focus and on and something to be proud of. He said he felt very determined at the first show.
He said: "We are all insecure, especially when the ego takes such a battering as losing a leg or a leg covered in scars or a brain injury. You don’t know who you are. Your body recovers a lot quicker than your mind does."
And he means ego in your sense of being and who you are.
He added: "That takes a real clattering when you get blown up. You become self conscious about even leaving the house. You stay at home and play video games and drink vodka. You get paid by the military and get time off."
He said: "I will always be recovering from an injury which is the unfortunate truth of this beautiful tale. Any injured serviceman will spend the rest of their life recovering from it. That is a fact- not negative or positive. It is as simple as that."
The play will be directed once again by Stephen Rayne, with music by Jason Carr, design by Anthony Lamble, lighting and projection design by Will Reynolds, sound by Colin Pink and choreography by Lilly Phillips. And what is it about the show which people have been drawn to?
Cassidy said: "You don’t need to be in the military to relive the trauma. We are living on an overcrowded planet right now- there is a lot of trauma going on around here...
"You don’t have to lose your leg in Afghanistan to know what it is like to go through trauma. You don’t feel you belong in a normal society- you feel something wrong has happened.
"When you watch the show it is about people who have found the strength to go off and do incredible things."
The Two Worlds of Charlie F is at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre from March 13 to 15 at 7.30pm with a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm. To book call 0844 871 7607 (bkg fee) or visit www.atgtickets.com/aylesbury (bkg fee). Tickets range from £14 to £52.90.
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