Soldier On. Jonathan Guy Lewis puts vets on stage to tell a story of survival

Soldier On is about getting a conversation started.

Soldier-turned-actor, and now writer and director, Jonathan Guy Lewis, is to tour his new play, Soldier On before bringing it into London this spring.

This is a heart warming story about surviving the forces and PTSD and what happens when you leave the military ‘family’.

What happens when a company of ex-soldiers becomes a company of actors? A theatrical band of brothers.

Although it’s not a cure all, the bonding, the humour, the theatre of war helps to put them back together again – as a company of veterans and actors rehearse a play about a company of veterans and actors.

Although worlds apart they begin to realise there are more similarities between military life and the theatre than they bargained for, building a powerful new world of their own.

Currently about to enter rehearsals, a cast of passionate individuals, many of them army veterans, will bring to life – through a combination of storytelling and dance – hard-hitting, poignant and, in some cases, deeply personal experiences.

It’s their words that do the talking in what one veteran, filmmaker Neil Davies, has named, The Full Military Monty.

Jonathan Lewis, who was invalided out of the army and then played Sgt Chris McCleod in two series of ITV’s Soldier, Soldier back in the ’90’s, said: “I think it’s safe to say that the military and the themes that arise out of serving Queen & Country are never far away from me.

“And now, more than ever, we need to support the thousands of people who’ve served and returned – to validate and affirm them, in a world that seems to be turning upside down.

Jonathan Guy Lewis in A View From The Bridge. Images Manuel Harlan.

“We now have much more of an understanding of the existence of PTSD than we ever did. So how do we get better at moving beyond ‘knowing and acknowledging’, to creating opportunities for veterans to process these complex emotions in a positive and life enhancing way?

“I’ve written Soldier On for exactly this purpose – to create a piece of theatre that can sit alongside the other great creative work that is happening, that is both entertaining and cathartic for it’s actors and its audiences.

“The ancient world knew all about the horrors of war. After a battle was fought, traditionally, the survivors would make a big fire, stand around it and talk about their experience of the fight.

“They would create a shared narrative which helped to process the trauma and bring the warriors together.

“The modern warrior, even with support networks, often feels isolated and neglected, and on returning to the communities from whence they came there is a disconnect.

“No longer need. Surplus to requirements. Soldier On is my contribution to help warriors with the daily battles they face on their return”.

The production is backed by The Soldiers’ Arts Academy, which staged the acclaimed The Two Worlds of Charlie F. The group explores ways in which the arts can aid transition and recovery for returning service personnel.

Soldier On stars ex-Royal Marine turned actor Cassidy Little, who won critical acclaim for his role in Charlie F.

He said: “Like rehabilitation, the arts are always moving forward.

“I am so pleased to continue my recovery in a project like Soldier On, created by the Soldiers Arts Academy, allowing me access and opportunity with actors, writers, creators, and like-minded people on a similar path of recovery”.

Producer, Amanda Faber, said: “Soldier On is a brilliant play – funny and honest and heart-warming. The cast includes veterans working alongside civilian actors and the plot revolves around a group of injured veterans putting on a play.

“The Soldiers’ Arts Academy is launching a seven-week national tour to raise awareness of the difficulties currently faced by around 66,000 veterans injured mentally and /or physically or those experiencing transitional difficulties.

“The tour will also bring the clear message to local communities that the arts can provide a viable alternative to sport as a recovery route”.

Tour Dates

Northcott Theatre, Exeter, February 22/23
Woodville Theatre, Gravesend, March 1
Playground Theatre, London, March 13-31
York Theatre Royal studio, April 4-7
The North Wall, Oxford, April 19-20.

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