Co-commissioned by Fuel and 14-18 NOW, WW1 Centenary Art Commissions, Charlie Ward was first staged in 2014 at the Cinema Museum in London, followed by a tour in 2018.
Designed to be viewed by a small audience lying on hospital beds, this piece has now been transformed into an installation you can watch at home. With a dark, quiet place and a set of headphones you can experience the sense of being a wounded soldier with the noises and memories of conflict.
In Charlie Ward (the hospital ward, not a soldier’s name), Harry is one of those lying wounded. While a Charlie Chaplin film, By the Sea, plays, his mind wanders between the past and present, with voices from both.
Indeed, Chaplin himself (a huge hit with soldiers immobilised in the Great War, as you may recall lampooned in Blackadder Goes Forth) seems to feel the gravity of the situation through clever video work.
This piece presents a realistic depiction of how images and meditation can spark deep-rooted thoughts and feelings: a silent film brings up the warmth of a summer’s day, paddling; and a letter, asking for safety and hope. It is profound and passionate.
Conceived, created and written by Sound&Fury, Charlie Ward has sound and video designed by Dan Jones and Jon Davey respectively. The credited voices include Amanda Lawrence and Saskia Portway in Harry’s home across the sea, with Nicholas and Jeremy Mockridge at war.
I found the piece worked well (although it recommends projecting the film onto a ceiling to get the same effect as the live performance, I found lying down and viewing on my laptop to be just as helpful).
The periods where we only hear sound from Harry’s delirious and muddled memories are very accessible, and I found my own memory stirred by a simple childhood prayer I had not thought of in years.
The installation remains available until 20 July, and you can book a free ticket at fueltheatre.com/projects/charliewardathome. It lasts just under twenty minutes.