Androcles Scicluna was nicknamed the “Maltese Pavarotti” during his time as an entertainer while serving with the British Army.
Now, thanks to support from a military veterans charity, he is finding his voice again by performing Shakespeare on stage. Mr Scicluna struggled with depression after leaving the Army, but he said that acting with the Combat Veteran Players, which he found through the charity Combat Stress, has made the past few years “the best time of my life”.
The 65-year-old left the Army in December 1979, but he found it difficult to adjust. Although he was given a council house with his wife and three children, he recalled: “I couldn’t cope. I was still military, obsessed with everything being in the right place.”
One day, he walked out and slept rough for a time. He spent his nights in doorways in Soho or parks, and was forced to steal food before securing a council house of his own. He kept in contact with his family, but kept his situation a secret. “I was too proud to tell them,” he said.
But three years ago he made contact with Combat Stress, a mental health charity for veterans which this year received an annual grant of £200,000 from ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, one of two being supported by The Independent’s appeal for homeless veterans. Staff there encouraged him to get involved with Stoll, which provides housing and support to vulnerable and disabled ex-servicemen and women, and he now works as a tour guide at the Poppy Factory in Richmond, west London.
He is also involved with the Combat Veteran Players, a Shakespearean theatre company comprised of veterans overcoming mental trauma, which he said has helped him rediscover his talents.
His first role was as Theseus, the Duke of Athens, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Old Vic Tunnels.
“Joining the Players has been so helpful, it brought that character out of me. It’s a great improvement,” he said.
“The last three years are much better than the rest of the years of my life. It is great. Not just being helped but the feeling of now helping others.”
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