REVIEW: The Two Worlds of Charlie F, Theatre Royal, Newcastle, until Saturday May 3

Owen Oldroyd and Tom Colley in The Two Worlds of Charlie F. Picture by Cylla von Tiedemann.
Owen Oldroyd and Tom Colley in The Two Worlds of Charlie F. Picture by Cylla von Tiedemann.
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BLENDING together seat-jumping sound effects, traumatic tales and the blackest of black humour, The Two Worlds of Charlie F is a full-on assault on the senses and emotions.

The plot follows the lives of a group of wounded servicemen and women: why they signed up, how they are wounded and the impact of their injuries – physically and mentally – on their lives and relationships.

The production is given extra depth by the fact each character is also played by an actor wounded while serving in the British Armed Forces.

Darkly comic and episodic in style, Charlie F is reminiscent of Catch 22 and Oh! What A Lovely War in its treatment of the human impact of armed conflict.

But it strongly differs from these texts in that it does not ridicule the cause for which the men and women are fighting or the leadership those they serve.

Neither does it vilify the enemy, and pity is also banished from the plot.

Charlie F seeks only to extract understanding and empathy as it entertains, not lead the audience down a certain path.

Break-away segments also give insight into the lives of soldiers serving in Afghanistan, with the audience put in the place of new recruits in training.

A detailed explanation is given as to the impact of an improvised explosive device on the human body; a history lesson is offered on the near-impossible nature of fighting in Afghanistan.

Cleverly-segued outbursts of synthesised gunfire sending the audience leaping from their seats are about as close as they can come to experiencing the shock of a surprise attack by Taliban fighters

This is a rich, deep production as entertaining as it is thought-provoking, cleverly constructed and perfectly played.

Ross Robertson