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Review: The Two Worlds of Charlie F at Newcastle Theatre Royal until Saturday

Ex-service personnel star in The Two Worlds of Charlie F, at Newcastle Theatre Royal until Saturday

Cylla von Tiedemann Owen Oldroyd & Tom Colley in The Two Worlds of Charlie F
Owen Oldroyd & Tom Colley in The Two Worlds of Charlie F

Owen Sheers’ play tells the story of a soldier’s journey from enlisting, to serving, to suffering a life-changing injury and finally to rehabilitation.

The title character is played by Afghanistan veteran Cassidy Little whose performance is so sincere and utterly believable that it brings emotion and life to the whole show.

In fact, the cast is made up almost entirely of wounded ex-servicemen and women, which makes a striking impact on the audience.

While the characters’ stories are fictionalised, the knowledge that the actors are not just actors but soldiers who have had similar experiences makes the whole idea resonate and is key to its success.

This is a show which doesn’t shy away from the uncomfortable, difficult truths about the lives of wounded soldiers and their readjustment to civilian life.

One particularly poignant scene sees the wounded soldiers taking their ‘meds’, only for Charlie to later admit their horrible side effects, which he is also forced to take pills for.

And while the subject matter may not seem the most likely to produce laugh-out-loud comedy, The Two Worlds of Charlie F. somehow manages it.

There’s no doubt the cast does the serious side justice, but it’s this effortless slip between sombre and hilarious that make the show so memorable.

Soldiers who have lost limbs discussing their chances of being offered work in porn and a slight misunderstanding in a strip club understandably got the most laughs from the audience.

A simple, somewhat minimalist staging allows the audience to be taken on the journey with a soundscape of deafening blasts and bursts of gunfire punctuated by gentle piano numbers, adding weight to already emotional scenes.

While it may have a serious message, this is at heart a hugely entertaining piece of theatre that delighted the crowd on its opening night.

Polly Grice

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