In 2014 the Sydney Theatre Company collaborated with the Australian Defence Force to produce The Long Way Home, a play based on the experiences of, and largely starring, Afghanistan and Iraq veterans. I saw the play at the Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne in March.
As the lights come up so do we, the audience, in a standing ovation. The Long Way Home has been a powerful performance. Next to me in the front row, a man reaches up to the stage and grasps the hand of the actor at the centre of the curtain call. “Thank you,” the man says. Actually the actor is a professional Australian soldier, a wounded professional Australian soldier, who might in some times and places be thanked for his service. But the man isn’t saying thank you for that today. Instead, I think he’s saying, “Thank you for telling my story.” The soldier is an Afghanistan veteran and the man looks as though he’s Vietnam vintage, but for all the references to Call of Duty, Generation Kill and The Hurt Locker, The Long Way Home has in many ways been a timeless story of war and homecoming. A returned serviceman of the First AIF would recognise it.