Actors to read rifleman's letters in anti-war protest

Moving words by teenager killed in Afghanistan first published by <i>Independent</i>
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The Independent Online

Cyrus Thatcher was a teenager from Reading who joked that his atrocious spelling was typical of a young infantryman. Yet this Remembrance Sunday his words will echo out across a West End theatre alongside those of the noted poet Wilfred Owen – another soldier who died in battle.

Actor Jason Isaacs, famed for his roles in the Harry Potter films, will be reading out Rifleman Thatcher's letters at Eloquent Protest – a powerful piece of theatre fusing poetry, music and drama to honour the fallen.

Rifleman Thatcher, of the 2nd Battalion The Rifles, was killed in an explosion while on patrol near Gereshk, Helmand, on 2 June. In letters given to The Independent by his parents, Helena and Robin, the 19-year-old cheerily proclaimed from Afghanistan on the 1 of May: "Love you'zzz all don't worry bout me to much". Another left in case of death ended: "Remember chin up head down. With love Cyrus xxxx."

Mr Isaacs explained that he had been asked to recite some well known poetry by producers of the show but was so moved by the young soldier's letters that he asked to use them instead at the event on 8 November at Duke of York's Theatre in London.

"They have the beauty and lyricism of a young boy of today who could be walking past us in the street. Unlike the great poets of previous world wars, there is no ability to distance ourselves from it," said the actor. "His exhilaration at finally getting to do the thing he has lived and trained for and his attempt to communicate that to his family is very affecting. I am twice as old as Cyrus was and I over think and analyse. His words seem to come straight from the heart. There is no literary pretension. I felt like I was listening to a video diary rather than reading a letter."

Last night Cyrus's mother Helena Tym said: "It is fantastic. Cyrus would be very, very flattered to be featured alongside those great poets – stoked as he would say."

The actor, who worked extensively with soldiers while filming Paul Greengrass's thriller Green Zone alongside Matt Damon recently, said he had developed a nuanced understanding and enormous respect for the men and women of the forces and their pride in putting their training into action. But he said it was also important to remember the toll war took on those coming home. Among others appearing will be actor Sam West, who will be reading Wilfred Owen's "Futility", and former SAS soldier Ben Griffin, who will be reading Siegfried Sassoon's, "A Soldier's Declaration".

Proceeds from the £18 tickets will go to the Mark Wright Project, set up in honour of the 27-year-old Corporal from the 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, who was killed when British forces first went into Helmand in 2006 to help ex-servicemen and women overcome the mental wounds of war.