The Long Way Home is a valuable, soldierly account of war and the implications of military service as experienced by returned Australian service personnel. For some of them, readjusting to civilian life and dealing with acute post-traumatic stress disorder takes far more courage than serving in combats zones.
Unfortunately, only the dead have seen the end of war, and war is indeed hell. This play – a co-production by the Sydney Theatre Company and Australian Defence Force – doesn’t hide those facts. It’s not delicate in the slightest, and it gives a rare and intense insight into the lives and minds of Australian diggers in Afghanistan and East Timor.
Playwright Daniel Keene and director Stephen Rayne give physically and psychologically damaged soldiers a thoroughly human face, showing us how ordinary people perform extraordinarily in the face of death and the line of duty.
Through a series of vignettes, Keene tells the stories of men and women forced by their injuries to resettle into their pre-service lives and adapt to new careers. The scenes are fictional, but they are based on the experiences of the ADF participants who perform in the production alongside professional thespians.
The immediacy and realism provided by the serving and ex-military personnel is the key to its success. Rayne’s tight direction and the ardent cast ensure the audience has a harrowing yet thought-provoking and entertaining experience.
For anyone interested in diggers’ welfare or the mental damage caused by warfare, The Long Way Home would be hard to beat. It is obviously authentic, particularly in its fluent use of soldierly vernacular and camaraderie.
The play has a message, too: those who have been harmed in the service of their country must have the courage to seek out and accept support from the organisations that can aid in their recovery, rehabilitation and resettlement.
The Long Way Home, a Sydney Theatre Company and Australian Defence Force production, is being presented by the State Theatre Company of SA at the Dunstan Playhouse until April 5.