As a teen growing up in the UK post 9/11, I was unsure as to how one of the most significant events of the early 21st century would impact on the daily lives of a nation distant, yet historically linked to the UK. An event forever etched on, I’m sure, the minds of most of us UK and U.S. citizens, I can remember exactly where I was as the tragedy struck, and what I was doing at the time, I had started my first week at secondary school.
Fast forward two years to 2003 and George Bush had controversially sent U.S troops to invade Iraq. Tony Blair, perhaps one of the UK’s (whether we like it or not) prolific Prime Ministers of the late 20th and early 21st Century, had confirmed that the UK would also be joining the U.S., in the hopes of over throwing Saddam Hussein’s governmental reign.
2011 marked the withdrawal of U.S. Troops in Iraq and the end of a strongly opposed war, but what of the soldiers who risked their lives? An occupation regarded as being highly male dominated, PMJ Productions Lonely Soldier Monologues amplifies the experiences of the female voice, a voice that is sadly, but typically sidelined. Adapted from Helen Benedict‘s award winning 2009 novel, The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq, depicts the lives of 7 U.S. female troops, each with differing roles within the military. All individual characters with their own motivations and experiences, their voices unite them, drawing them together as they speak of deep and dark tales of sexual abuse, intimidation and isolation from their own male comrades.
These sad truths pepper the production, as each protagonist courageously speaks of their suffering at the hands of their very own side, a supposedly heroic organisation. The startling irony between women fighting for their country, however suffering at the hands of those they fight for leaves a sour taste and highlights a grey area, in terms of reporting abuse within the U.S. Military.
All 7 of the ensemble hold their own, each face memorable as they recall both physical and mental battles, especially with PTSD. Monologues become truly elevated when the rest of the ensemble illustrate fragments of the verbatim speeches. This is an element that is used, but not enough, and would therefore benefit from more of these demonstrative displays. The production occasionally suffers from slow pacing, therefore keeping the narrative at the same level.
The Lonely Soldier Monologues is a brave piece of theatre that in no doubt will be recalled upon within the playwriting world as a pioneering work. I’m sure in 20, 50, 100 years time, it will be a piece of theatre regarded as being the alternate voice, a voice commenting on the war within rather than the veneer we are often presented with. 3.5/5
Review written by Lucy Basaba.
The Lonely Soldier Monologues is currently showing at the Cockpit Theatre until Sunday 31st May. For more information on the production, visit here…