War Veterans Take To The Stage

They now wear costumes instead of the uniforms they once wore, but while their military service is behind them, a group of injured ex-servicemen and women are united in civilian life through the works of William Shakespeare and the Combat Veterans Players' Company.

The group is comprised entirely of ex-service people who have suffered mental and or physical trauma. It was formed to offer those hurt in the line of duty a creative outlet for their recovery.

Cassidy Little was, until last month, a serving member of 42 Commando.

The former Royal Marine was severely injured by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. He had his right leg amputated below the knee, his left retina partially detached and various bones shattered.

He's a man with every reason to be pessimistic about life yet his resilience and positivity is clear.

The group's newest cast member told us how performing with the Combat Veterans Players' Company is helping him deal with his trauma.

"Projects like this allow us to all come together and have a section again, and you need to trust the other person before you get up on stage."

Then there's Shaun Johnson who saw action in Northern Ireland at the height of the troubles of the 1980s. He's been with the group from the beginning.

The Post Traumatic Stress Disorder sufferer told us how being a member of the cast has and is helping him with his PTSD and hypervigilance.

"When you're introduced to something like theatre and particularly with Shakespeare... you don't have time to remember or think or meditate on what's troubling because you've got lines to learn and scenes to get on with, and all of sudden your life is filled with something which is quite exciting."

When the programme came together in 2011, it had only been intended to last three months, but their founder Jackie Mcloughlin told us how their polished performances continue to sustain them today.

"I'd like to think the sky's the limit for these guys because they have so much to give and anybody that sees them once on the stage always want to come back and see them for a second time."

Jackie's efforts won her the instant backing of Combat Stress, the mental health charity for veterans.

The Combat Veterans Players' Company's debut performance was at the Old Vic Tunnels in March 2012 with a rendition of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Next, the group followed up in 2013 with Henry V.

Its success saw the run extended throughout the UK throughout 2014. The show saw the group performing Henry V at the Royal Shakespeare Company's Bell Stage in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

One of their proudest achievements came in July last year when they won acclaim for their much talked about performance of Hamlet at the Globe on London's South Bank.

Now the group of accomplished performers is preparing to perform Shakespeare's Twelfth Night at London's Leicester Square Theatre next Thursday.