The cast of THE RETURN OF THE SOLDIER speak to Frankly My Dear UK about bringing Charles Miller and Tim Sanders’ musical adaptation to Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre
Following it’s critically acclaimed London run in 2014, Charles Miller and Tim Sanders’ bittersweet musical THE RETURN OF THE SOLDIER heads to Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre this month, just in time for the centenary of the end of the First World War.
Based on the novella by Rebecca West, THE RETURN OF THE SOLDIER tells the story of Christopher Baldry, a captain who returns from the war with shell shock and memory loss. It soon becomes clear that he no longer remembers his wife and believes that he is still in love with a past lover. The musical is the fourth of five in-house musicals at the Hope Mill Theatre in 2018.
Ahead of its month-long run, the cast of THE RETURN OF THE SOLDIER speak to Frankly My Dear UK’s Lucy Moore about the musical’s revival and why they believe the story is so important.
“One big issue is the mental health aspect and it’s that whole British thing of being disciplined from a young age and having self-control, you’re expected to just shrug it off and get on with it, which is what soldiers were told back then” explains Marc Pickering, who plays William and Dr Anderson.
“Nowadays at least we’re recognising that it [PTSD] is a thing, and just because you haven’t got a bullet hole or a missing leg doesn’t necessarily mean you’re all okay.”
“Also just generally the importance of expressing emotions and how you’re feeling” adds Esme Sears, who plays Jenny. “We see that Kitty his in such an upsetting situation in that her husband doesn’t remember her, and when he went to war they just shut off and didn’t deal with it, and actually that’s been a trigger point for things that have happened later.”
Tessa Kadler, who plays Kitty, Christopher’s wife, found the emotional subject material of the show difficult. “I think as an actor you’re sometimes expected to be able to switch these things on and off, but sometimes it’s not that easy. Sometimes you’ve really got yourself right there, you’re at the end of a song and you’re in bits and pieces, to just go home and have a cup of tea, it’s just like ‘what?!’”
The cast is also keen to emphasise that although the story focuses on Christopher, the women in the show are hugely important and largely drive the plot.
“It’s quite easy to sell this story as all about Christopher Baldry, but it was actually written by Rebecca West, who at the time was a huge feminist,” says Chris Jenkins, who plays Christopher. “In modern-day terms of feminism you could say that it’s not really a feminist story, but if you think back to 1918, when this was written, it’s not talking about the men and their heroism, it’s more about the women who are left behind and have to deal with the fallout of it all. While this isn’t a true story, this was something that happened a lot. There are so many documented cases of shell shock, that we’d now call PTSD, that were untreated.”
“There’s a nice message throughout the show about the importance of being happy, and what is more important in life,” says Naomi Slights, who plays Margaret. “I have one line in the show that really hit hard, and that is “Nothing in this world matters so much as happiness.” I think that’s the heart of this.”
THE RETURN OF THE SOLDIER runs until Saturday 29th September 2018 at Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester.
Lucy is a nineteen-year-old aspiring actress from Glossop. She is currently studying Music Theatre at the University Of Central Lancashire and hopes to move onto a career in performance. She also has interests in reading, writing and music.