Army@ The Fringe in association with Summerhall (V210)
August 2nd to 25th (not 5,12,19) 13.15
⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4 stars)
Here is a play about the WW11 poet Keith Douglas, written by Owen Sheers, well known for presenting television programmes about literary and military matters.
The room is which the play is presented in most distinctive; it is as though we are at the front, in the men’s quarters. There are beige sofas for us to sit on. We are a small audience, and a very privileged one.
Dan Krikler becomes Keith Douglas for us. His impersonation is deep, thorough and very impressive. As Douglas, he tells us about his experiences in the war in the Middle East, and about the beautiful women of Alexandria, and about one in particular, and gives us a moving account of that relationship. There is leave, there is preparation for the invasion, there are birthdays, there is correspondence with mother and the absence of father. There are other love affairs, including going back into his teen years. All this is presented in a way that fully engages us and we are swept up in a life that is very full and vibrant, maybe more so because of the imminence of death, the possibility of a sudden end. There is talk of trying to get a collection published, of correspondence with T S Eliot and others, and of if he will get published before he is killed, or if his first collection of poems will be his only one.
Before we go, Krikler as Douglas recites to us his perhaps best known poem, Simplify me When I’m Dead. We are given a booklet containing that poem, and there is an exhibition about Douglas and his work along the approach to the performance room. This play has been recommended by no less a person than Margaret Atwood, who described it as “Wonderful”. It is produced by, ” The Story of Books” based in Hay on Wye.
This is an excellent performance of a very engaging play, which moves very effectively between the different times and aspects of a life that was so clearly full of great potential, but was cruelly snuffed out, as were so many at that time. Douglas was only twenty four when he died in 1945, but he had already achieved enough to be later considered the most significant and promising of the poets of that war.
Seeing this show, you not only learn about that life, but are expertly swept up into experiences we can be thankful not to have shared.