Ginger Hibiscus | Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: The Lonely Soldier Monologues at The Cockpit
Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: The Lonely Soldier Monologues at The Cockpit
Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: The Lonely Soldier Monologues at The Cockpit
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08 May REVIEW: The Lonely Soldier Monologues at The Cockpit

The war on sexual discrimination is over. Equality has been achieved, and that’s why we don’t need to talk about feminism any more. Right? RIGHT?

Well obviously not. Despite the fact that the gender pay gap in the UK is at an all time low, women are still being paid 9.4% less than their male counterparts, and a casual glance at a newsagent news stand will show you title after title objectifying women to sell papers. They’re only two small examples, but occurrences like these are pervasive, systemic, indistinguishable from ordinary life, and ingrained in culture and tradition. So it can hardly come as a surprise that just like the women in the general population, the women in our armed forces fall victim to gender discrimination and sexual harassment. But whilst it isn’t altogether surprising, that doesn’t make it any less shocking.

When you go to war, when you put your life on the line to fight for your country, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect the unpleasantness and violence to come from across enemy lines, rather than behind them. You don’t expect to be wolf whistled walking through camp, have men expose themselves to you when you’re driving between them, or to be raped by your own comrades when you take a step away from your weapon. But these things really happen. They really did happen, and they probably still do. The Lonely Soldier Monologues presents a diverse group of US servicewomen, telling their experiences of war, verbatim. Of the mortars and patrols, gun fights and IEDs. Of missing home, their military families and, often, sexism, in one or many of its guises. It gives a group of women – women who refuse to be victims – that catalyst for change, a voice.

LSM 2 Pete le MayLet’s be clear about this. I’m not trying to say that the women’s experiences are any more, or less valuable than their male comrades’. And I’m definitely not saying that all of the men these women came into contact with were sexually aggressive towards them. It’s just that unlike the chorus of male voices we hear talking about their experiences in war, in the media, the voices of the women who were there remain silent. But it’s more than that; so many of the women were explicitly silenced when it came to raising their experiences, they were belittled, dismissed, or threatened. Giving them their voices back matters. And listening to those voices matters just as much.

Despite a clear focus on the specific challenges of being a woman on the front line, The Lonely Soldier Monologues certainly isn’t a one trick pony, touching on a whole host of other themes including the case for war, the excitement of battle, homesickness, genocide, moral decisions, PTSD and racism to name just a few. But together they form just 1 piece of the indescribably complex puzzle that attempts to convey the experience of deployment, the decision to enlist, and how it feels to re-enter the civilian world.

Delivered as a coherent set of monologues presented with a beautiful simplicity, The Lonely Soldier Monologues is a show that’s all about its stories, “recalled” with poignancy and vigour. Director Prav MJ strikes a delicate balance between creating something worth seeing in the theatre (as opposed to on the radio), and avoiding detracting in any way from the words taken, verbatim, from the lips of real veterans. Predominantly delivered facing front addressing the audience, the moments where the “soldiers” become minor characters in each others’ stories offer bursts of energy and visual stimuli to support rather than overwhelm the script. This light touch theatricals approach is mirrored in the lighting, a red/white colour palette all that’s required to set the tone, and yet making its point concisely.

This all goes to say that The Lonely Soldier Monologues is not an easy watch, but it’s an important one. These are voices that have to be heard, and it’s a conversation that has to be had. Male, female, transgender or gender queer, wherever you’re from and whatever your beliefs on the legitimacy of the war in Iraq, if equality matters to you, then seeing The Lonely Soldier Monologues is more than just important: it’s a must.

Dates: 6th May – 31st May 2015
Venue: The Cockpit Theatre
For information and tickets:
Images: Pete Le May

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
Okay, fine, but how many stars do you give it? Click here