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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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Combat Kids – character biogs

Zara (Eden Nathenson), Colin (Ramon Tikaram), Xan (Kieran Wallbanks) and Christie (Anna Jobarteh)


Jed (12) is a cheery if sometimes earnest boy on the verge of growing up. Young for his age, he is still alive to games of "let's pretend" but it's beginning to get a bit more complex. He loves his friends and loves his dad and his greatest fear is losing them. In almost any other walk of life this would just be irrational anxiety. For an army kid it's always there.

Jed has a tendency to feel things a bit more deeply than the others around him. His best defence against dark feelings is that he's also resourceful and mischievous, so he plans and carries out wicked practical jokes aimed at his older sister. He's quick-witted, capable of turning any situation to his advantage.


Christie (13) is all exuberance, quick emotions and a curious sort of strength that makes her both fun and dependable. She's agile and strong and more practical than any of the boys. She's also totally fearless, which means she's spent most of her life being told off for letting a laugh with the gang get the better of good sense. She can easily hold her own on the assault course and she keeps a watchful eye on Jed. They've known each other for years and know how important it is to have friends you can trust.


Zara (10) doesn't distinguish between the real and the imaginary. This makes everything around her fizz with possibilities. If she has troubles she buries them deeply - a little too deeply, maybe. Her way of dealing with problems is simply to pretend they're not there. Zara's Mum is the army part of the family. Her dad is "the dependant" who runs the household and looks after Zara and tries not to get too narked about the fact that as an army "wife" it's virtually impossible for him to get a job anywhere. Zara will have to deal with her mum withdrawing once she's being deployed - something all the squaddies do, but that's harder when it's your mum.


Alexander (11) is a bit geeky, a bit techie, a little bit weird to be honest. He doesn't quite get how the world is, how other people interact. He doesn't understand the rules of friendship and he can't read tacit or unspoken signals. He calls himself Commander Xan Alpha, a Senior Stealth Commander, who travels the universe in pursuit of the ancient enemy of his people.

If Xan is a highly organised, exceptionally qualified inter-galactic warrior, Alexander may just be an odd kid with a wild imagination and a winning mixture of charm and strangeness, who finds pretending easier than the challenges of army life and tends to use the one, perhaps too much, to cushion himself from the other. At first, his oddness and threats baffle the others - but his stories become increasingly attractive and convincing, particularly when the regiment is deployed and they all have to face the very real fear of having your dad or mum away on active service.


Malcolm Whedon (57) is known by the kids as "The Weedle". He looks after estate management in the barracks, which generally means enforcing the rules. Army rules tend to be a somewhat unsentimental affair and that suits Whedon just fine. The bane of his life of course are the kids, particularly Jed's little gang which sneaks (he's almost certain of it) to the forbidden woods where they get up to all sorts of trouble.

Whedon was an army brat himself who spent his formative years in these very barracks. He didn't cope too well with losing friends and moving on and gradually hardened himself in an effort to ease the pain. The result is a walking rule book, safe in the unemotional rigidity of regulations. But as the story unfolds and the kids confront him with evidence of the child he once was, he will warm up and join them.


Bex Clayton (17) has fallen for a young private who lives on the base. It's her second relationship with a soldier. The first was very much obstructed by her mum who doesn't want Bex ending up as an army wife with all the stresses that come with it. So Bex is keeping this one quiet. Not that secrecy is an easy thing behind the wire where everybody seems to know everything about everybody else.


Paul (22) is from a long-standing army family, living and working with his mum and dad on the base. He's never considered doing anything else. To his mind, Bex is pretty much perfect. As far as her brother Jed is concerned, Paul is a sound guy who plays a little guitar and gets on brilliantly with the kids. The only time Paul is a little bit awkward is when Bex looks him straight in the eye and then he can't even think. He's the perfect older brother for the gang. He knows grown-up stuff, he's a proper soldier, but he's almost more comfortable hanging out with the kids.


Steve Clayton, father of Jed and Bex, joined the army as soon as he could and loves it. He's in his late-thirties, enjoying a good career and keen to move upwards in the ranks. He made Sergeant quite early but has languished a bit since then. He understands how army life can affect the family in both good and bad ways but reckons the good and bad balance each other out as long you never take the kids for granted.
He's close to Jed, perhaps a little less so with Bex, some of whose important years he missed. He regrets that maybe more than anything. Sometimes he wonders if being a family man and being a soldier are irreconcilable roles. But how do you choose? He's a bit of an old-fashioned father: more comfortable with discipline, less with emotion.


Marianne and Steve met when he was already a soldier and she was a teenager. They fell in love, married young and had kids before she knew it. Her adult life has been shaped by the army. Moving from base to base, bringing up the kids by herself, coping with the constantly shifting dynamics. She is house-proud, and is a forceful, strong mum.


Colin is married to Gill, and father of Zara. He stays at home and looks after her, Gill is in the regiment. Colin is a bit lost, obsessed with the news, often out of touch with what Zara is feeling, not great at helping her through the hard times.


Gill is a career soldier first, mum second. She does her best as a mum, but it's not the most important thing in her life. She loves the army and has had to work twice as hard as the men to get where she is. When the regiment hear they're being deployed, Gill immediately goes into "work mode" and becomes noticeably more distant from Colin and Zara. She's strong, fit, athletic and disciplined.

Mr Henderson

Deputy Head at the local school, Mr Henderson has authority over the kids, but he is overstretched and often misses the point. The army kids are an annoyance to him - they have trouble fitting in, they drag down the standards of the school, and he is a bit quick to write them off...


Susan is Xan's mother. She is endlessly patient, absolutely used to bringing up a special child with a mind quite unlike any other. When Xan says she and his father are aliens - specially fabricated to take care of him - she smiles and goes along with it. This is just another of his strange imaginings. She and her husband are delicate and respectful to their son, but also have to provide boundaries for him. She is a kind, thoughtful, tolerant woman.


Aiden was the leader of Jed's gang, but he has to leave after his mum decides to move away. She loses her husband and wants to start a new life, away from the base.

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