Not About Heroes
Aug 15, 17-22, 24-28 (12:00)
Script: Stagecraft: Performance:
The Welsh – ie Newport’s Flying Bridge Theatre – have brought a play about two English poets to Scotland. Of course, Edinburgh is the play’s natural home, for exactly a century ago, at Craiglockhart, two young officers struck up a kindred friendship. Destiny & timing had chosen them to be the funnel-mouths of the zeitgeist, to record for eternal posterity the true feelings, shapes, moods & all of that vaulting expressionism of the dreadful horrors which swirled among the First World War trenches like sneering banshees in a storm. Both Daniel Llewellyn-Williams as Siegfried Sassoon, & Iestyn Arwel as Wilfrid Owen, present a lively, aesthetically authentic, & occasionally sugary account of that seminal meeting, played out among a busy, polyscenic set. It was under Sassoon’s wing that Owen strode out from under his sickly-sweet Keatsian pastiche, into a fully-fledged & unique poetic voice that is immeasurably brilliant & hopefully never to be repeated.
As a piece of theatre, Not About Heroes is at times devastatingly beautiful, & others as if source materials were simply being repeated ad verbatim on stage. The former found its supreme realisation in two excellent & extended scenes; the first being when Sassoon signed copies of his book for Owen’s friends & family; & the second where he helped remould ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth‘ from Owen’s almost finished draft. From here we follow the growth of their friendship into the famous & catastrophic finale in the futile fields of Flanders. For those wishing to gain the full story, Not About Heroes is pretty near perfect. However, just as the Trojan Cycle tells the complete story of Troy, in which the Iliad is the stellar moment, then this play would have gained more from just focusing on the Craiglockhart period, when the creation of their poetry, exploding in tantric pulses, was in its purest state. Not About Heroes reminds me of a yacht race, where the play reaches the cardinal points, but on occasion takes too wide a berth, thus elongating the whole into the still seas of ‘tad-too-long.’ Saying all that, it is a timelessly important cultural story & one extremely well told, & should become the seminal theatrical account of a meeting of poets as important as when Wordsworth met Coleridge in Bristol, 1796, & Shelley met Byron at the Villa Diodati in 1816.
Reviewer : Damo