Fitting the uniform

Chris Leask as Ken in Love Your Soldiers, Crucible Studio'' Photo by Robert Day
Chris Leask as Ken in Love Your Soldiers, Crucible Studio'' Photo by Robert Day

In his short television acting career Chris Leask has found himself putting on a uniform, either in the police or the army.

It is no different as he makes his stage debut in the Crucible Studio in Love Your Soldiers, Robin Hooper’s new play about loyalty, lies and loss for two soldiers on the front line in Afghanistan and the girlfriend they left behind in the UK.

In Richard Wilson’s production he plays Ken, stationed in Camp Bastion in Helmand with best mate Roly, and communicating via Skype with his fiancee Gemma back in London.

“We did a lot of research and what really stood out for me was the loyalty of the squaddies,” says Leask, “and that’s quite a big thing in this love triangle and also the loyalty Ken wants with his missus and having to integrate back into the real world where there is a lot of baggage.

“It’s very hard for soldiers to get back into it and that’s why there is a lot of post traumatic stress disorders. It’s so backwards, essentially, nothing is straightforward and we did a lot of research on this as well.

“My granddad was in the army and I spoke to him and my fiancee - my real-life fiancee - her cousin was in the army and went to Afghanistan so I found out a lot of information. It was mainly that loyalty that captured me and that idea that you could meet someone and in two weeks you were putting your life in their hands. The most important thing is comradeship and that’s why the play is called Love Your Soldiers.”

There is a parallel here in the acting profession. “In no way am I comparing actors to soldiers but there is a similarity in the way you meet someone and then have to do a love scene or something like that and then suddenly you part and you may never see them again and you find a lot of actors can be quite emotional for that reason.”

Leask, from Amersham in Buckinghamshire, is 24, the same age as his character. But whereas Ken has been in the army for eight years he is just starting out on a career.

Viewers will have seen him the other week in an episode of ITV series Breathless. “All my scenes were with Jack Davenport and he was constantly teaching me different stuff,” repprts Leask. “When you are a young actor coming out into this scary world it’s nice when people are welcoming and kind.”

He has also played coppers in BBC district nurse drama series Frankie and Channel 4’s Phoneshop.

“Phoneshop was very different, although I was playing a policeman again,” he says. “It was special because it was my first television comedy - this is my stage debut - and I was a bit worried because it has its own specific humour and I wanted to come in and get that and they were so welcoming and nice and encouraging.”

So what is it that casting directors see as someone to uphold the law?

“I think I have the right face,” he suggests, “but also when you are a new actor these are the kind of parts there are, especially when The Bill was around. All the parts I’ve got are quite specific to looking young.”

Love Your Soldiers continues at the Crucible Studio until November 23.