Members of the armed forces community are focusing on their wellbeing, learning creative skills and meeting new people thanks to recovery through the arts programme, Bravo 22 Company.
“Stand easy and let it all go because through drama you release what’s inside you.”
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 meant that the lessons designed to give serving personnel and veterans new skills and experiences moved away from being face-to-face and relocated to people’s houses via video calls.
The award-winning arts programme was made possible by military charity The Royal British Legion and The Drive Project. The company has produced theatre productions and art exhibitions all over the United Kingdom since its establishment in 2011.
Their 2012 debut of ‘The Two Worlds of Charlie F’ took place at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in London while their most recent production, ‘Reparation Island’, was staged at The Birmingham Hippodrome in 2019.
One of the workshops is run by world-renowned vocal coach Patsy Rodenburg who has trained actors such as Judi Dench and Ian McKellen plus worked at the National Theatre.
She was impressed by her cohort of Bravo 22 Company members, a dozen or so faces she could see in small boxes on Zoom taking in her every word. She said:
“Their work is extraordinarily good and I’ve worked with some of the greatest actors.
“What they have about them is an extraordinary focus and professionalism which I imagine comes from their experience with the armed forces.
“The discipline was there, the self-discipline. I was amazed because I did two sessions and I set them some and they did the work very very well, very accurately.”
The vocal coach encourages her students to tell their life stories, something she says people in the armed forces will understand the power of, saying:
"You can’t go through that experience I’m sure without meeting a few of what I call epic stories.”
This is why Patsy puts so much emphasis on the voice and the importance of breathing.
She believes that our desire to tell stories is “more important than the invention of the wheel or the taming of fire” and that our ability to tell stories is what has evolved our humanity. She said:
“To tell a story you need to be connected, you need to feel your breath.
"You need to feel your voice and you need to feel that people listen.”
The group she taught worked well together which is something she claims many actors cannot do anymore, saying:
“Great actors do it, but the celebrity actors will not work with people and if you don’t work with people, you don’t honour each other's story.”
The vocal coach has travelled the world to share her expertise in voice, body and breath. Patsy’s expertise aligns with the very reason Bravo 22 Company was set up by Alice Driver, Founder of The Drive Project, to give current and ex-serving personnel a voice and enhance confidence and self-esteem as part of their recovery journey.
About the online lessons, Shaun Johnson, an actor and former soldier who was attending his first workshop with Bravo 22 Company, said:
“That was exhilarating. I've been frantic with stress, today helped me calm down massively with the breathing work.”
His feedback supports the idea that these workshops are not just imparting new theatrical skills, but also strategies to assist with day-to-day wellbeing.
This was the case for workshop attendee Liz who decided to join the master class after joining the Bravo 22 Company Facebook group. As the widow of a veteran, she was not initially sure she would be eligible to join so she was hesitant at first. She said:
“It was the best thing I’ve ever done to be perfectly honest.
“Patsy’s teaching is just amazing. She’s got the gift of getting the best out of people.”
Liz is keen to encourage others who might be unsure about taking part in a creative workshop to dismiss ideas that getting involved in drama might make them feel foolish, saying:
“Stand easy and let it all go because through drama you release what’s inside you.
“Your emotions are directed to the piece you’re doing at the time. You become someone else.”
Bravo 22 Company continues to run a huge variety of online creative workshops, ranging from storytelling to photography, as well as informal social get-togethers and one-off workshops for new members to come and try out a new skill and meet new people. There is something in the programme for everyone.
You can subscribe to the Bravo 22 Company YouTube to gain access to a host of free online creative workshops.
If you are part of the military community and are interested in joining Bravo 22 Company, contact them by emailing [email protected]