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Friendship forged through poetry and the futility of war

Review by Emma Whitelaw

THE extraordinary tale of how two great poets met amidst the tyranny of war is retold through Stephen MacDonald’s Not About Heroes now showing at Baron’s Court Theatre.

The play is a touching account of the short-lived friendship between World War I poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen.

The two-man show is simply superb and I cannot sing the praises of Dov Citron and Martin Scully enough.

The delightful Citron plays Sassoon, an already established poet, who discovers the inert talents of Owen when they meet under the most unlikely circumstances; in a mental hospital.

After publishing a controversial public protest against the war, Sassoon is committed to Craiglockhart Hospital in Edinburgh.

Not wanting to discipline a solider of such stature, Sassoon’s superiors thought it appropriate that he be deemed 'shell shocked'. After all, how could they reprimand a 'Hero' who had won the Military Cross?

Owen, played by Martin Scully, on the other hand, had been regarded as a coward and sent to Craiglockhart to cure his shakes and stutter, something which plagues him for the rest of his short life.

The ill-fated Owen feels he must not only prove his courage to his peers but also to himself. As soon as he is declared fit, he swears he will return to the trenches and prove he, too, can be a hero.

The two writers share the same sentiment when it comes to literary prowess and share many a laugh over the works of other writers.

They also share a hatred for war and its futility, as is reflected in both their works. Their common bond soon forms an intense friendship that will far surpass their days at Craiglockhart.

The production features recitals of many stunning pieces by both writers, like the sardonic They and Owen’s masterpiece, Anthem for a Doomed Youth.

For those who have not yet been exposed to either writer, you are sure to be moved. Theirs is a poetry that is truly inspirational yet at the same time, deeply poignant.

MacDonald himself is an extremely gifted writer. He has woven the poems into the dialogue with such intricacy that the play itself is much like a poem. Each scene is like a stanza and the rhythm in which they are presented is both refreshing and effective.

The costuming is superb, as is the set design and sound and lighting. Barons Court is the perfect venue for such an intimate production; it is a befittingly personal space that allows the audience to feel the intensity of the emotions that emerge onstage.

Not About Heroes will take you on a journey that explores a friendship that goes beyond the call of duty and a love that will never die.

Not About Heroes written by Stephen MacDonald. Starring Dov Citron and Martin Scully. Februart 8 to March 6, 2005, at Barons Court Theatre, 28A Comeragh Road, London W14. Box Office 020 8932 4747.

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