Assembly George Square (venue 17)
August 4th to 29th
The life of poet Rupert Brooke is the focus of this very involving and thought-provoking drama. Brooke is known to many as the writer of the poem about the fact that if he dies in war there will be a piece of England in a foreign field. It appealed to the patriotic spirit of many at the time and since. However, there is much more to him.
Here he is portrayed by Jonny Labey (of Eastenders and In the Heights) as a young man who believed in his potential as a poet and was determined to achieve, and who also knew that he was very handsome, if not beautiful, and attractive to many people, of both sexes. We see him causing heartache to women and to an extent to men, and it appears that he was able to be his worst enemy, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in personal affairs. We see him much affected by the death of a contemporary, and then hear details of a student-years gay experience.
We hear little of his political views, though they were unusual for his class and time, and we hear little of his attitude to the war, but we do learn much about his relationships. We hear him referring to “women” often, and this seems almost a way of not looking at the unique individual before him. Nick Baldock’s absorbing script reveals much about Brooke, and he comes across as someone who will idealise in verse but tend to be cerebral in prose when passion may be needed. It is fascinating to listen to the workings of his mind.
It seems odd to begin with the famous poem by Owen – the “pro patria mori” one – written after Brooke was beneath the ground, and then jump backwards. Maybe this could have been the finale? Certainly, I feel the ending is insufficiently dramatic and could be worked on.
Yet, overall, this is a very stimulating and thought-provoking show, and one that anyone interested in how people behaved a century ago, the poetry of that time and the psychology of relationships, would do well to get along to. And, of course, we see lots of a very attractive young man.