James Whitney in Sydney Theatre Company and the Australian Defence Force’s
“The Long Way Home”
© Lisa Tomasetti
When I think of a soldier taking “The Long Way Home” I think of the lyrics of that old Scottish song “O ye’ll tak’ the high road, and Ah’ll tak’ the low And Ah’ll be in Scotlan’ afore ye”.
By tradition it’s sung by a Scot wounded on an English battle field to his mate. He’s going to die and the fairies will take him through their land along the low road back to Scotland while his friend will walk.
The same is true in modern war. Those that die find their way home long before those that live.
One of the things we have come to realise in modern warfare is that coming home often does not stop for the soldier when he walks off the plane from the battlefield.
So the play “The Long Way Home”, produced by the Sydney Theatre Company and sponsored by the Chief of the Defence Force General David Hurley, explores both the reasons and the problems of Australian soldiers as they come back both physically and mentally from the battlefields of Afghanistan.
The play was written by Daniel Keene after a many week workshop with returned soldiers who now fill almost all the roles in the production. The soldiers do an excellent job, it’s impossible to tell these amateurs from the professionals.
It’s hard to write critically about this piece of theatre since a weakness in a performance, a badly delivered line or bad stage movement, are both forgivable and almost unseen through the strength of the connection between audience, the performers and the work.
A simple set and simple costumes are enhanced by some vivid video and lighting changes. The production is well designed and well directed.
Almost from the first “The Long Way Home” deliberately grabs the audience and plays with it’s emotions, moving us through fear, sympathy, understanding and sometimes even love. The playwright and the performers have not shrunk from the task of making the audience understand all the dark times and feelings these men and women go through as they come back.