"I've got my arms and my legs. People look at me and think I should be OK. I left the army in 1977. But I'm not OK. I'm not OK."
A man walks onto an empty stage carrying a holdall over his shoulder. He looks around, bemused, confused, uncertain. He recognises this place but at the same time he really has no idea where he is and even less idea if he belongs. He drops his bag and sits on a chair. A second man enters and repeats the series of movements. His uncertainty is evident and his hesitation as he reaches his chair profound. Should he enter the house, ring the bell first, or simply turn around and walk the other way, fearing the welcome he might receive. A third man enters - his bag a bin liner gripped tightly like a comfort blanket.
And so began the first sharing event of Coming Home, a year long project in which Cardiff based theatre company Re-Live, have been working with military veterans and their families, to creatively explore experiences of returning from conflict. The sharing event marked the end of a ten-week research and development process in which Geese Theatre Company collaborated with Re-Live to create a safe space for the veterans to find ways in which to articulate their all too often profoundly traumatic experiences. Through the use of song, image, personal testimony and simple movement the audience were invited into a world of pain, shame, loss, abandonment and ultimately resilience and hope. Audience feedback included words such as "inspirational", "moving" and "deeply affecting." By sharing their stories in front of an audience the veterans had an opportunity to be heard and this seemingly simple transaction of sharing and being heard provided this group of men with a platform in which their experiences and the ways in which those experiences had scarred them, were validated.
For more information about Re-Live and the Coming Home project click here