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The Armed Forces Project: Day One

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Assistant Director Alex Ogando tells us about the beginnings of the rehearsal process for Boots at the Door, a play based on the Armed Forces Community of Plymouth

I’m stood in the biggest rehearsal room we have at the our Production and Learning centre, TR2, where a group of us will be working for the next week. The space is the exact same size as the Theatre Royal Plymouth’s Lyric stage and by observing the open space around me I am able to see the amplitude of the task that lies ahead of us. As I stand I feel that strange mixture of both excitement and nervousness that you get at the beginning of a creative process. This project is one which at this point in time is a completely blank canvas, and the thrill of the unknown journey ahead makes it all the more exciting!

People start to trickle into the rehearsal space, men and women of all ages each looking a little anxious at what is to come. I shake their hands and even though there is the occasional shadow of uncertainty crossing their faces as we meet, there is an undeniable united feeling of adventure and aspiration humming under the surface even in these very early moments. They are strangers to each other and myself for the moment, but over the course of the week I will start to learn of all their uniquely fascinating and powerful stories and experiences which will shape the beginnings of a story, a play and eventually a production that will be shared with you on The Lyric stage this December.

I should probably reveal at this point that all these men and women in the rehearsal space share an extremely important common ground; they are all part of the Local Armed Forces Community of Plymouth. Stood around me are proud ex-servicemen and women, wounded veterans, reservists, wives, husbands and children of service men and women, and they are all here as part of the Theatre Royal Plymouth’s Armed Forces Project 2015.

The project is being funded by the Royal British Legion as a means to aid recovery and resettlement of military personnel into the community. Through taking participants through a theatre-making process they will gain transferable skills that may hopefully enable some to gain work, increase confidence and their self-esteem. It is a fantastic project to be a part of.

Once we are all in the space there is a general introduction to the building and to the start of our first research and development phase where the bare bones of our project will be formed. I am given the important task of explaining evacuation procedures for the building should an emergency arise and as I begin to explain the procedures to them I cannot help but laugh to myself quietly as I speak, knowing what these men and women around me have potentially seen and experienced; knowing what they have been trained for, naturally they aren’t at all phased.

I continue anyway with an inward smile at their patience and realise how grateful I am that there are people in the space with us who have decided to take a chance on something new and different. I think I should stress at this point that we still have space for more people from the forces community to get involved and that I only hope if you’re reading this and are searching for something, anything to get involved in that you take a chance on this project and join us. Whether you are looking for closure, a chance to define yourself, an opportunity to share your stories, meet new people or learn new skills please get in touch. This is an amazing opportunity to give the Local Armed Forces Community a loud and honest voice so grab it with both hands and let’s make people sit up listen!

The formalities come to an end and we can now start getting to know each other, to start tapping into our creativity. I look around me and wonder where this is all going to lead and how it will end. I find it amazing knowing that whatever comes out of these first few days; even hours will be the first push down one creative avenue or another. I think to myself how incredible it is that the steering of this project is so closely influenced on these initial moments which seem so irrelevant in the over all arc of our journey. We are ready to start, we all take a big breath of life in and with that, so it begins…

Boots at the Door will be performed in The Lyric from Thursday 3rd to Saturday 5th December 2015. If you would like to be involved, on stage or backstage, then please visit the Take Part pages for more information.

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