Lives of military wives left behind are nothing to sing about in Kevin Dyer’s play

The poster artwork for Farnham Maltings’ tour of Kevin Dyer’s The Man Who Left Is Not The Man Who Came Home

HELMSLEY Arts Centre will be the only Yorkshire stop for Kevin Dyer’s new play on the lives of military wives, The Man Who Left Is Not The Man Who Came Home.

“Britain has armed forces in many countries. Their partners are waiting at home for them to come back,” says writer-director Dyer, ahead of the March 14 performance by the Farnham Maltings company. “Some listen to the news, some don’t. Some have affairs, some don’t. Some sing in choirs and put on a brave face, some don’t. All of them find a way to get on with it.”

Dyer began his research by chatting to women who had been married to men who had gone to war. “Most of us with partners say goodbye to them when they go to work, but we know that they’re going to come back. Not so, if you’re a ‘military wife’,” he says.

“It soon became clear in my conversations that the pressures on the pair of them – the wife and her man – were immense, extraordinary and not at all like civvy street.”

Dyer knew quickly that he had no wish to write about the experience of being “over there”. “There are lots of documentaries and pieces of semi-fiction that have covered that,” he reasons. “But the stories of the women who watched their man go, spent time thinking, wondering, hoping, coping whilst he was away, then experienced him coming back home, were vivid, inspiring, and largely untold.”

He had a few “basic questions” for the women whose men went to war. “What was it like before he went? What was it like saying goodbye? What was it like once he’d gone? What was it like the moment he came back? What was it like after the first buzz of his return had passed?” he asked.

“I heard stories of love, hate, betrayal, uselessness, kids, mates, denial, madness,” says Dyer. “The stories are varied and never simple.”

The Man Who Left Is Not the Man Who Came Home is the product of more than 100 one-to-one interviews with soldiers and their wives, where secrets, regrets and experiences have been shared for the first time.

The resulting play tells the story of Ashley, a young British soldier, and his wife Chloe just before, during and after he is posted to serve in Afghanistan.

“Chloé’s future hopes come with imminent challenges,” says Dyer. “Being married to the military means facing deployment. Behind closed doors, there is tenderness and humour too, but as the day of Ashley’s departure comes ever closer, anxiety and confrontations multiply.

Dyer’s story of resilience, hope and change – and knowing that the man you love, who is going to war, might not come back ­– will be performed by Stephanie Greer and Sam C Wilson with military wife Sam Trussler. An open conversation on the themes of the play and the country we live in will follow the 7.30pm performance.

Dyer’s play, both innovative and emotional, carries this warning: “Though we hope that the experience of the play will be moving, relatable or cathartic, and there’s no intention to shock, there’s a chance that, for some audience members, it could incite emotions and memories that are upsetting or strong feelings about war.”

Tickets are on sale on 01439 771700 or at Age guidance: 14+ only.