Hollywood star Ray Winstone came to town to encourage local forces heroes to take part in a theatrical project.
Bravo 22 Company is the first project of its kind in the UK, and helps local veterans come to terms with what they have suffered, by enlisting them to help produce, write and act in a play telling their stories.
The company, which previously sold out at Edinburgh Fringe is now coming to Aylesbury’s Waterside Theatre, and Saturday’s event was to encourage veterans from Buckinghamshire to take part.
Mr Winstone, who has appeared in blockbusters including Scum and Sexy Beast has supported the project from the outset, and brought along actress Amanda Redman (his Sexy Beast co-star)to take part in the question and answer session.
During this the stars, and members of the last intake of Bravo 22 Company, took questions from a number of people whose lives had been affected by the wars in Northern Ireland, Afghanistan and Iraq.
One woman described how her life is constantly transient, moving from place to place with her RAF serviceman husband. And she emotionally told how he missed the birth of his first baby while deployed in Afghanistan.
Another audience member described how after serving the forces for 17 years, he was treated poorly by Job Centre staff and he said how worthless it made him feel.
Mr Winstone said: “I am 100% proud to be part of a company like this, and although I don’t get enough time to be involved as much as I would like these people are doing an amazing job.”
In response to the audience member who was made to feel ‘worthless’ by the Job Centre he said: “Is it just this government or is it all governments? Maybe by doing something like this you can have a voice, and tell them about it. Otherwise, nothing will ever change.”
And Mr Winstone, who has travelled to visit troops in Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, said that although he does not agree with war, he feels that supporting our troops is important.
In a comment that received applause from the packed auditorium he said: “This is nothing to do with my career, this is to do with me being an Englishman.”
Speaking to the Bucks Herald after the session he said: “I was a herbert when I was kid, then I did a play , then I started drama school and it was a real education, I’ve been lucky enough to keep working since.
“When this idea came along the only way I could put a mirror to my own life is that I know what it’s like to walk into the room and people stare at you.
“But it is different because if you’ve just lost an arm or are mentally scarred, to walk into a room is not an easy thing to do.
“But if you can do something on stage and let it out then that would boost your confidence.”
And when asked about the comparison between the tough guy roles he plays, and the lives of people in the forces, he added: “I play people that take things away from people, you can’t compare it.
“When I went to Camp Bastion I got off the plane and I was met by this little girl who worked in bomb disposal, that’s bravery.
“Everything I saw there just blew me away.”
Tickets are now available for the as-yet untitled Bravo 22 Company play, which will take place at the end of March. Ray promises to be in the audience, and you can buy tickets or sign up to take part at www.atgtickets.com/aylesbury