THEATRE – The Long Way Home – Dunstan Playhouse – 4K

The Long Way Home was developed by Sydney Theatre Company, at the invitation of, and in conjunction with, the Australian Defence Force, following a similar project by director Stephen Rayne in the United Kingdom. It is brought to Adelaide in conjunction with the State Theatre Company of South Australia. While biographical plays are not uncommon, this production is unique in that it sees the soldiers who provided the stories (Will Bailey, David Cantley, James Duncan, Wayne Goodman, Craig Hancock, Kyle Harris, Patrick Hayes, Tim Loch, Emma Palmer, Sarah Webster, James Whitney and Gary Wilson) on which writer Daniel Keene based his script, filling the majority of on-stage roles in the production.

The stories portrayed are varied and interesting. There are glimpses of the conditions faced overseas on active patrol in warzones; the danger and the boredom, the adrenaline and the fatigue. The majority of the play focuses on the time after this though, when the soldiers have returned to Australia, and are preparing to be discharged from active duty and return to a life outside the armed forces.  They encompass both the individual and shared experiences of the soldiers and those around them, highlighting the personal impact and the flow-on effect.

Keene succeeds in creating a blend of characters and stories that provide an insight into what it is like to exist between two worlds – to find yourself devoid of place, disconnected from those around you and not knowing if there’s a way to change that. The simple staging puts the focus squarely on the performers. The script is powerfully written and the heavy involvement of the ADF personnel in its development ensures that there are no trite or clichéd elements. Throughout the play, the scenes capture and examine contrasting states of mind; they explore the confusion, frustration and anxiety that can be felt when conflicting thoughts, feeling and desires are experienced at the same time.

While the majority of the play is intense, there are also frequent moments of comedy and, while the mix of acting capability in the cast is wide ranging, the feeling, timing and pace is always maintained. Hancock, Loch and Whitney do particularly well in their emotionally demanding roles, while the Sydney Theatre Company performers who join them (Martin Harper, Emma Jackson Odile Le Clezio, Tahki Saul and Warwick Young) provide good support and a stable, confident base for the other performers to work off.  

The concept of the show, the way it was developed, produced and performed means that this production is unusual. While it would no-doubt still be an interesting and moving piece if performed entirely by professional actors, this debut run, featuring those who collaborated in its creation, is a unique theatrical experience and, even more-so, a moving human experience.

Kryztoff Rating: 4K.

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