In this storytelling project, Australian playwright Daniel Keene and UK director Stephen Rayne will work with returned servicemen and women from the Australian Defence Force who have returned from conflict overseas with physical or psychological injuries and illness, to tell their stories through a theatrical experience. Actors will feature alongside the servicemen themselves, and the season will be short in Melbourne (besides being amateur performers, many of the returned soldiers have injuries that make an intensive run of performances impossible).
The genesis for this project came from abroad, when the ADF’s Chief, General David Hurley, saw Stephen Rayne’s UK production based on the experiences of British servicemen from Iraq and Afghanistan. He approached STC early in 2013 with the idea: “He said before he left the ADF, he wanted to do a piece where his soldiers had the chance to talk about what they do,” artistic director Andrew Upton recalls.
“My family doesn’t really know what I do in my job,” says Brigadier Wayne Goodman – one of the 12 members of the Australian Defence Force who have been working with Sydney Theatre Company since last August.
For Brigadier Goodman, with 32 years of service (most recently in Afghanistan), the STC project is a unique chance to share a side of military experience that the media misses: the long-term consequences of war on the people who fight it.
“We’re not just talking about if you get injured; it’s more the long-term strain, mentally, that you don’t even notice at the time that it starts taking affect,” says Brigadier Goodman. “When you come back home, you are a different person because of what you’ve seen. Not totally different, but you’ve seen things and you might not understand that straight away – and then they start to come out and you wonder ‘Why am I feeling this way?’ The point of this play is not to put our hands up and say ‘Please don’t make us do it’ – it’s just for everyone to realise that this is what happens.”
It’s also therapeutic for the men and women sharing their stories – often for the very first time. “It helps me because I’m here with a group of my colleagues and we understand each other,” says Goodman.
“The play isn’t about showing the ‘reality’ because I can tell you half of it would be really boring. But because [Daniel and Stephen] are taking all the different snippets and putting it into a play, it’s sort of more surreal and it will be humorous and it will be shocking, confronting. It will be a story – based in reality. And that’s a better way – for me personally – to tell a story, because when you do you never focus on the bad parts of the dark side, you always have a bit of a laugh, a bit of a joke. But it means something to us.”
The Long Way Home is presented by the Sydney Theatre Company.