PLEASANCE DOME V23
AUGUST 2ND TO 28TH ( NOT 9, 16, 23)
This is an extremely polished and affecting revival of Stephen MacDonald’s Fringe First winning play about the poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. There is a cast of two, Daniel Llewellyn-Williams as Sassoon and Iestyn Arwel as Owen. These two carry the weight of a substantial and very dialogue-heavy play as though it was no more than a volume of diaries and verse.. Their impressive professionalism and deep involvement carry us along and keep the large audience engrossed.
We start with the sadness of Sassoon’s parting from Owen, fearing the fate that may await Owen, and then go back to the very first meeting of the two. Arwel portrays Owen’s nervousness and shyness when first encountering his idol Sassoon such that the audience can feel that closely. Sassoon’s initial off-hand manner gradually melts as he gets to know Owen and sees his poetic potential. The two men become close friends and work closely together, Sassoon giving much help, and support to Owen. The strength of the connection is not given the kind of expression that would be natural today; these are officers a century ago. But the word love is used between them, and when the name Robbie Ross is mentioned anyone who knows the alternative history of the period, the gay history of the period, will know just what is being referenced.
The terrible loss of life going on across the channel as these two men are recuperating at Craiglockhart outside Edinburgh is repeatedly referenced, and we hear about the effect of the loss of a nineteen year old soldier, David, upon Sassoon, who was with him at the end.
It is rare to see a play in which so much poetry is recited, and spoken so well, both that of Owen and Sassoon and also some of Shelley and Keats. A treat for many.
This is a play steeped in violence, but every bit of violence happens offstage. We feel the tragedy of the circumstances surrounding these men, and the dilemma they faced in feeling the need to play their part in the war at the same time as protesting the waste and the horrific chaos of the war.
The play will be touring after Edinburgh, so if you cannot get to it here there will be other chances around the country. It is an experience well worth having.