Helmand love triangle will make headlines

Director Richard Wilson in rehearsals for Love Your Soldiers
Director Richard Wilson in rehearsals for Love Your Soldiers

Sheffield Theatres’ associate director Richard Wilson continues his mission to bring brand new plays to the Crucible Studio.

After premiering Lungs, and Straight at the theatre over the last two years he now directs Love Your Soldiers by Robin Hooper.

Set in the war zone of Afghanistan and the domestic front in London, Love Your Soldiers is a contemporary love story that explores the burdens of lies and loss carried by two soldiers and the girlfriend they left behind in the UK.

“I have known Robin (an actor as well as a writer) for many years and nearly directed one of his plays twice but it never happened for various reasons,” says Wilson.

Perhaps to make up for it Wilson offered to personally commission him to write a play. “I told him if I liked it I would do it in Sheffield. He discussed some of his ideas and I picked this one and I got the Crucible to put it on.

“We had a reading in London of the text which is what we often do and then Robin and I continued to work on it.”

The story is a love triangle set mainly in Helmand and partly in Hackney.

“We are going to turn the Studio into Helmand and I hope it will be a noisy production,” laughs the director..

“I look on the play as a snapshot of what we are always seeing in the headlines of people being killed and all the rest of it. But we seldom see plays about relationships and how do you continue them thousands of miles apart.”

In addition to the soldiers, played by Chris Leask and Jordan Bright, and the girl (Charlotte Beaumont) there are other characters in the play, including Afghanis.

“There’s a shopkeeper they befriend in Hackney and the guy playing him also plays an Afghani soldier,” explains Wilson.

There’s also a bacha boy - one of the dancer boys who by tradition are sold into a kind of sexual slavery. The bacha dance is re-enacted in the play.

The production had an ex-serviceman as technical adviser, there was a visit to Headley Court, rehabilitation centre in Surrey, and other research involved watching YouTube pictures of Bacha Bazi.

“There’s a lot of technical stuff in this production, much of it is done by Skypeing which is something I have never attempted before,” he continues. “There are two big screens with a box in between where the action is played out.

“There’s lots of soundscape and lighting effects and I rely on my technical team, particularly designer James Cotterill and lighting designer Johanna Tow.’’ Love Your Soldiers opens this week and continues until November 23.