The American Soldier

We must be nearly at saturation point with plays and particularly monologues about war veterans. There can’t be much more left to be said on the subject and it’s very difficult to find a new angle on this almost exhausted theme. The American Soldier is vulnerable in this respect, yet every time one of these works appears, it’s impossible not to be moved by the devotion of the performer to the subject and the tragedies that form a recurring pattern in the lives of those who sacrifice themselves in the service of their country.

They tell an enduring story and one that we all have to live with, either personally or collectively.

Written and performed by Douglas Taurel, this play is derived from research he undertook in the New York public library into books of letters from a number of wars. His reading generated two strands that form the basis of this production. The first was relatively obvious, in terms of the extent to which service personnel give up their civilian family lives and devote themselves to national service. Through having done that and fought in combat zones, the second theme of post traumatic stress disorder became evident.

Unlike other plays that focus on a single war, The American Soldier covers engagements across the centuries and miles. The American Revolution, Vietnam, Iwo Jima and the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere all feature. While the stories are located in different times and places the underlying themes are universal. Mostly the statements are from are from soldiers but he also uses wives, children and the people left behind as characters in his drama.

Although Douglas Taurel never served in the military, his family has connections, and in uniform he looks every inch the soldier. He has the build and the sergeant major’s voice which makes him convincing, but he can also transform himself into the grieving parent and speak in soft, tearful tones. Uniforms, civvies and wartime memorabilia enhance various scenes along with apt sound effects.

Douglas Taurel gives a heartfelt performance and joins a long line of actors who have taken on this subject. Like the soldiers they represent, they deserve to be respected and honoured even if they are not breaking new ground or moving forward the frontiers of modern theatre. They tell an enduring story and one that we all have to live with, either personally or collectively, and some do it very well.

Reviews by Richard Beck

Brockley Jack Theatre

every seven years

★★★
Arcola Theatre

The Game of Love and Chance

★★★
Lion & Unicorn

Two Worlds No Family

★★★★
Jermyn Street Theatre

Mr and Mrs Nobody

★★★★
The Space

Helium

★★★
Southwark Playhouse

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★★

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Performances

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The Blurb

Solo show revealing the struggles American soldiers face at war and their internal struggles to come back home. Based on real stories and accounts from soldiers' letters written from the American Revolution through current day Afghanistan. This show strives to help us understand how and why it is so difficult for men and women in the armed services to re-enter our pedestrian life when they come home. It honours and exposes their flaws, their scars, their families and spirits with both humour and darkness.

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