I can already predict that I will receive a fair bit of judgement for this review. Not because it is scathing, or negative in the slightest – just because I was a weirdo and went to the theatre alone.
Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a bit of a solo date every now and then: it’s cheaper, you know that the person you’re going out with is hilarious, and there’s no awkward goodbye at the end of the night.
So alone I walked into the Old Courthouse Theatre on Saturday night for The Soldier’s Wife, brought to town thanks to Full Throttle Theatre Company. I was one of the first to arrive, apart from a collection of talkative ladies perched on the row of chairs in front of me.
I had a fair idea of what to expect with this production: after a chat with Cairns-based songwriter Roz Pappalardo last month, one of the five women performing in The Soldier’s Wife, I had mentally prepared myself for the rollercoaster of emotions we were in store for. Or so I thought.
It is one thing to listen to emotional songs. It is another for them to be performed by five of Queensland’s most talented singer/ songwriters. But then it is inexplicble when it turns out that a number of those songs were written based on the stories of the women sitting just in front of you.
I could feel the gratitude and love swelling out of the front row as local women Tanya and Suzi had their stories told in song form, among the many performed throughout the show. The stories shared for this project would catch many people at their most vulnerable, so to be able to build that vulnerability into such a beautiful thing is something I believe The Soldier’s Wife team deserve endless praise for.
The most incredible part of these songs is that they will impact different people in different ways – although when I looked around to check no one had heard my involuntary out-loud sob, there didn’t seem to be a dry eye in the house. Each song tells a different tale from another perspective, so is likely to resound differently with each audience member. The music this group of women has woven together not only provides a platform to raise awareness for what is left behind when troops are deployed, but an opportunity for these partners and families to sit down, tell their story, and realise that they aren’t alone and have support available.
The Defence Force is a big part of our city, so I feel like I could be banished for saying this, but I have no immediate connection to Defence. Great grandfathers served, and friends’ parents are deployed to different places every few years, but they are the closest links I have. And yet, every single song still entranced me. I could not tear my eyes away, could not avoid the invitation to imagine. These stories are so much more than just support for the partners of soldiers: they are a recognition and celebration of history, tales of unsung heroes, and stories of unfathomable love.
No matter your background, no matter your family ties, and no matter your personal music taste, The Soldier’s Wife will move you. It will transport you into the shoes of those that have fought for us to live the unrestricted lives we do, or their partners waiting with bated breath for them to return home.
I cannot thank Deb, Roz, Jackie, Emma and Kristy enough for Saturday night. It was lucky that I attended alone, because I am an ugly crier and The Soldier’s Wife sent a steady stream of tears down my face. It was incredible, transformative, and should not be pigeon-holed as something only Defence families would appreciate: you will learn so much, feel even more, and have the chance to meet five phenomenal songwriters in the process.
While The Soldier’s Wife has not confirmed any future Townsville performances, a collection of songs have taken shape as a book and CD collection which includes lyrics, photos, and a story behind each song. View The Soldier’s Wife collection here.