Coinciding with the centenary of the First World War,The Return of the Soldier is an intimate new chamber musical by Tim Sanders (book and lyrics) and Charles Miller (composer) based on Rebecca West’s celebrated 1918 novel. This intensely bitter-sweet tale dissects the very different love of three women for Captain Christopher Baldry.
When Christopher returns from the war suffering from shell-shock, there are profound consequences for each of the women. As he tries to return to everyday life, he has to confront the traumas sustained through the stress of warfare. With a cast of five, this powerful new musical drama with its rich and arresting score, becomes an eloquent treatise on the nature of love, truth, memory and loss. In the end, only an extraordinary sacrifice will restore a fragile status quo.
Zoe Rainey plays the role of Kitty Baldry in The Return of The Soldier, and this is what she had to say about being in the cast of this new musical.
You are currently rehearsing for the new musical The Return of The Soldier, which will be at Jermyn Street theatre from 2nd to 20th September. What attracted you most to want to be a part of this production?
With the centenary and having performed in “Oh what a lovely war” at Stratford East earlier this year my interest in The Great War has grown, so when this production presented itself I was already interested. What most attracted me most was that it is a story which deals with the effect war had on the women at home. They held the fort while the men were away fighting and waited patiently for any news they would get. The women weren’t given a voice then so it is lovely to explore some of the heartache they lived through.
For you personally, how important is it to be part of a production which is marking the anniversary of the start of World War 1?
It is incredibly important that these stories are being remembered as the years move on. If we forget we can’t learn from them. It is our history and has helped formed the Britain we live in today. I knew very little about WW1 before my research earlier this year but it makes sense of a lot of the issues we are dealing with today.
There is a cast of five in The Return of the Soldier. How does it feel to be performing in a fairly small cast?
It is a cast of five with six characters which means it is beautifully focused on these people and how their lives and decisions effect each other. It is lovely to perform in a small cast mostly because you can get to know each cast member better but also because it highlights the intimacy of the story. The audience really get to know the characters and their relationships intimately which will hopefully help them connect and respond to these people with real insight.
How does performing in a smaller theatre where the stage is ‘up close’ with the audience, compare with performing in one of the larger productions, do you have a preference?
I have been fortunate to perform in venues from 50 seats to 5,000 seats and both have been thrilling for very different reasons. The larger productions are exciting and give you the opportunity to tell the story to more people and there is a sense of a vast courtyard where the King is rallying the troops to go forth. But with smaller venues it feels like the audience is in on it with you. Like they have sneaked into the King’s chambers to hear his inner thoughts. You can hear the audience gasp and see their tears and there is an understanding that this has been an experience that only we know about in this moment which helps the audience invest.
You play the part of Kitty Baldry in The Return of The Soldier. What can you tell us about your character and how you will portray her?
Kitty is Christopher’s (the returning soldier) wife. They live a very comfortable lifestyle in Baldry Court socialising with the Gentry. Kitty enjoys this lifestyle and status and it is incredibly important to her that she maintains this. When Chris arrives back from the war in 1915 he has lost the last 10 years of his memory due to Shell shock and therefore doesn’t remember her. He remembers being in love with another woman so the play for Kitty is about regaining Chris’s memory at all costs. She wants her husband back and is heartbroken to have the man she loves looking at her with a vacant expression.
What is at the heart of the story of The Return of The Soldier?
The heart of the story for me lies in whether Chris gaining his memory would be for the best or if the world he has created now makes him happier. I will be really interested to see how the audience respond and what they would choose as the outcome as I think their head and heart will be torn in different directions.
There is so much to see in the West End and Off West End, why should everyone get along to see The Return of The Soldier?
This is a story that anyone who has ever been in love can relate to. It contains unrequited love, young/passionate love and the love of a husband and wife. It could be set in modern day and translate beautifully but as it is set in 1915 it is the perfect time to come and watch it. The music is so beautiful and it is an opportunity to be the first to hear music that has never been heard before and experience an entirely original piece of musical theatre.
THE RETURN OF THE SOLDIER A new musical
Directed by Charlotte Westenra, Music by Charles Miller, Book and Lyrics by Tim Sanders, Musical Director Simon Lambert, Designer Simon Anthony Wells
Captain Christopher Baldry – Stewart Clarke
Margaret Grey – Laura Pitt-Pulford
Kitty Baldry – Zoe Rainey
William Grey/Dr Anderson – Michael Matus
Jenny Baldry – Charlie Langham
Tuesday to Saturday 7.30pm, Thursday/Saturday matinees 3.30pm. Additional performances Monday 8th 7.30pm, Sunday 14th at 3.30pm
Sunday 24th August 2014