On Saturday night my husband and I were joined by Caroline, Lisa and Chelly as we went to see The Long Way Home.
For those who don’t know, Caroline (aka Deputy Nut) in the yellow, is one of my longest standing Aussie Hero offsiders. Next to Caroline is Lisa, whose fiance returned from AMAB in December last year and finally in blue Chelly whose husband returned from Tarin Kot in July last year.
Both Lisa and Chelly now sew for Aussie Heroes after having seen how much the quilts and laundry bags their partners received meant to them.
Personally I found the production incredibly moving and at times hard to watch. I was not the only one struggling to maintain my composure in the last hour of the show. As we walked out of the theatre at the end of the night I remarked to the others that I had no idea how I was going to review it for you well enough to do it justice. At that point the gorgeous Chelly piped up and said she would write something for me.
Well, she didn’t just write something……she wrote a wonderful review.
If you are wondering if you should buy tickets to see “The Long Way Home” I am sure that Chelly’s review will leave you in no doubt that you absolutely should!
Saturday 15th February, Sydney
Having read snippets and previews of the show, being associated with members of the Australian Defence Force and having my own husband recently return from ‘in-country’, I was quite excited (with a dab of ‘unsure’ emotions) to see the production of ‘A Long Way Home.’ A Sydney Theatre Production of stories, experiences, reflections, afflictions and soldier verbatim of returned Australian servicemen and women.
But it wasn’t just stories told or soldiers sitting around reading a recited script. These men and women bared their souls and their personal stories, in a way that allowed the audience to feel their anxiety, their stress, their confusion and feelings of absolute uselessness that only others who have experienced a deployment could understand.
Each experience was different. Each reaction was different.
Yet somehow you felt not a sense of pride, not of pity, certainly no claims of understanding, but maybe you felt a little anguish or even a responsibility to listen, to pay attention, to hear the voices and gain a sense of what these guys feel every day since coming home.
You saw their demons, how hard it is to function on a day to day basis. Strains on marriages and even relationships with mates. You witness the battles fought in their minds and the ghosts brought back with them, a constant reminder of their job, leaving them wondering if it is over, or if they are crazy – and yeah, they must be, ‘it is that PT-whatever disorder’ as one soldier on piquet states, as he talks to himself, arguing and convincing himself that he is not going crazy.
You see mates out together, drinking, talking, and then it is all too much for one and he has lost it, screaming for the noise to stop. His mates try to calm him but cannot, and instead, calm each other, by a hand on a shoulder or just standing nearby, being there. Knowing.
There were a couple of standout ‘characters’ which could easily be associated with many who serve – in my mind anyway – their experiences loud, painful, hard to deal with, yet in the typical Aussie way, pushed aside for the benefit of loved ones.
You then realise how hard it must be for the Aussie Digger, returned, to drop that larrikin persona and face his ghosts (who were on stage in the physical form of a patrol of 5 fully geared up soldiers, constantly in shadow, following one particular returned serviceman), and the conflict of emotions faced – “This is my job, my job is no longer needed, what do I do now? I do not know anything else. How can I function? Leave me alone.”
This was the turning point of the performance and one in which I think plays an integral part of healing for those involved.
For those who are not associated with returned serviceman, in the present AND in conflicts of years gone by, this was the moment of clarity – when a sense of compassion veiled the audience and you felt a responsibility to think twice about that man in uniform on the street, or those who march on Anzac Day, that friend from high school who joined, your cousin who is deploying next month, your best friends husband who just returned…. Everyone knows a soldier, and now they are aware of the psychological repercussions of their service.
‘The Long Way Home’ does not ask for understanding or help. The men and women don’t ask nor want you to solve their problems. Their bruises. All they ask is for you to listen. For them it is therapy. An avenue for public awareness.
For the audience it is a timely reminder, as our involvement in Afghanistan draws to a close that a war never ends for a soldier. We may think they leave it behind, but nothing is left behind, them, their mates – alive, wounded or killed, no one is left behind, not even the ghosts of war. We are left with the poignant image of the back of a Hercules, ramp down, Aussie flag high and an avenue of Diggers almost inviting us to take that long way home with them.
Till next time…………..keep spreading the word and go out and buy your tickets!