Lonely Soldier Monologues, currently playing at the Cockpit Theatre, by Helen Benedict takes the stories of seven women who served in the US Armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. What emerges from this verbatim play is the subtle and none-too subtle methods of discrimination and sexual harassment that they suffer serving in the armed forces.
The piece is not anti-war or anti-military; for many of these women the serving in the Armed services was a way to show patriotic duty after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, or just a way off welfare. But it highlights many of the excesses known from the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns, in war so poorly planned and organised that soldiers had to make do without body armour but could still eat lobster.
In return for soldiers giving over their lives to serve, the message from this piece is that they end up serving in a dysfunctional organisation where men were always promoted and the women have to endure constant unwanted advances, derogatory comments or even rape. And the individuals are always just pawns in a larger battle playing out by generals or politicians.
Given recent stories in the media, where women have been told they would be better off facing the sexual harassment than speaking out, this is not just confined to the armed services (or the US Military).
It also poses some broader questions about what happens to the veterans when they return home. One woman, who entered the military to get off welfare after being in an abusive relationship, finds after Iraq she is out of the military and back on welfare.
The piece is based on true stories, although the identities have been changed. And there is a realism in both the staging and the performances. It is convincingly acted by the ensemble cast and there is warmth and humour in the performances.
Overall, it is a powerful and moving piece and will have you wondering about the basic human rights for all those serving in the military.
The show will also be holding post-show talks on themes of military justice in the US and UK and domestic and sexual violence with writer Professor Helen Benedict, Emma Norton from Liberty and Madeline Moon MP.
It runs through to 31 May.