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Wounded Service Personnel Set for UK Tour Following West End Success

A group of wounded, injured and sick Service personnel who took the West End by storm in January with the hit play ‘The Two Worlds of Charlie F.’, created by The Theatre Royal Haymarket Masterclass Trust in partnership with The Royal British Legion and Defence Recovery Capability, will now bring their real-life stories of conflict and recovery to tens of thousands of people throughout the UK.

The Bravo 22 Company will tour the production to The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham, The Sherman Cymru Theatre, Cardiff in July, The Pleasance Grand as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August and finally return to London’s West End in early September.

Under the artistic auspices of patron Trevor Nunn, and with the support of project ambassador Ray Winstone, and patron General Sir David Richards, Chief of Defence Staff, the Bravo 22 Company crafted a production which received five star reviews and full house standing ovations from a star-studded audience when it debuted for two performances at The Theatre Royal Haymarket on 22nd January 2012. The BBC’s Creative Director, Alan Yentob, has also recently joined the project as patron to support the company into the next phase.

Following the first performances, Ray Winstone commented:

"I am so proud and overwhelmed. It is the most moving play I've seen for a long, long time. The public should get behind this and be part of something unforgettable."

The production, which was born out of a collaborative project between The Theatre Royal Haymarket Masterclass Trust, The Royal British Legion and Defence Recovery Capability, has the aim of using a theatrical learning environment to aid recovery, build new skills and offer opportunities to those members of the Armed Forces transitioning into civilian life.

Commenting on the origins of the project and the success of the production and forthcoming tour Masterclass Creative Producer Alice Driver said:

“This all started 15 months ago as an idea inspired by the bravery of a wounded soldier I met in Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham. The Bravo 22 Company was born out of this meeting; at its heart was the recovery of wounded, injured and sick Service personnel by providing a unique work placement within a theatre company. By being part of this process they would not only immerse themselves into a new industry but benefit from the effects of this theatre model: increased confidence, self-awareness and ultimately allowing them to step away from their injury.”

The Legion’s Director of Health and Welfare, Sue Freeth, said of the charity’s involvement:

“The Legion is proud to be funding this very innovative and unique recovery project for members of the Armed Forces community. The project has demonstrated the huge impact a creative and collaborative process can have on building self-esteem and motivation, and has also offered an insight into a different industry, opening doors to new opportunities for those involved.

“We will continue to channel funds where needed into projects like this, to support Service personnel recovering from life changing injuries, and their families, today and for the rest of their lives.”

An independent evaluation to assess the effectiveness of the project concluded that the original project aims and intentions have been surpassed. In interviews conducted during the process and post-performance the participants spoke of gains in confidence and motivation, feeling calmer and less angry, of building lasting friendships and gaining a valuable insight into an industry outside of the Armed Forces. Theatre and third sector based work placements have been secured for members of the Company following on from the success of this first phase.

Cast member Bombardier Gareth Crabbe (34), is a soldier in the Royal Artillery who served in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq and was injured in 2007 whilst on exercise commanding a 105mm light gun which left him needing spinal disc replacement. Speaking of his involvement he said:

“I really enjoyed working in the positive environment of the theatre, making new friends, learning new skills and being with others who understood what I was going through. The whole company is incredibly excited about reliving this amazing experience and taking the play on tour to share our experiences with as many people as possible.”

Colonel Charlie Knaggs OBE on behalf of the Defence Recovery Capability said:

“The Ministry of Defence was delighted with the inspiration and support that Bravo 22 has delivered. The experiences and subsequent opportunities that wounded, injured and sick personnel have received in support of their individual recovery journey has been extraordinary. I am sure that the next stages of this project will be equally exciting for all the Service personnel involved.”

Owen Sheers, the writer of ‘The Two Worlds of Charlie F.’, producer Alice Driver and members of the cast will appear at the Hay Festival of Literature on Friday 1st June to discuss the play with Alan Yentob. The discussion will preview clips of the forthcoming BBC1 series ‘Imagine’ which features the Bravo 22 Company and the creative process behind the production.

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