Theatre Review: Not About Heroes, Newport Riverfront
Newport based theatre company, Flying Bridge’ presentation of Stephen MacDonald’s play, Not About Heroes, opened at Newport Riverfront on Thursday.
Telling the story of the meeting and subsequent friendship of First World War poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, the play tells of how the two poets bonded over a mutual hatred of war and a love of poetry after meeting at Craiglockhart Hospital in 1917.
Stephen MacDonald’s script, which originally premiered at Edinburgh Fringe in 1982, was recently performed to packed out Fringe audiences by Flying Bridge. As the Riverfront performance proves, the play has never been in safer hands.
MacDonald’s characterisations of the poets are brought vividly to life by Iestyn Arwel as Wilfred Owen and Daniel Llewellyn Williams as Siegfried Sassoon. The pair deliver a compelling and educational two-hand performance exploring Owen and Sassoon’s relationship as artists, friends and unrequited lovers.
It’s the feeling that is put into the recitations ofOwen and Sassoon’s writings interspersed with the on-going story that give this production further appeal. While Arwel recites Owen’s letters home to his mother, William’s interjects with fragments of Sassoon’s own war poetry. This creates a sense of personalisation with both characters, bringing them and their words to life.
Both Arwel and Williams successfully peel back the complex layers of both characters who are suffering from the after effects of shellshock. Owen’s Neurasthenia makes way for confidence and strength while Sassoon’s initial brashness and rudeness moves aside to become a caring and mentoring attitude towards his new friend.
Not About Heroes doesn’t shy away from the horrors of war. Owen and Sassoon were quite vocal about The Great War’s atrocities in their writings decades before protest singers were waxing lyrical on record. The plays descriptions of doomed youth facing annihilation and wanton destruction are delivered by the actors with such emotional and challenging effect they demand the audience to sit up and listen.
- Not About Heroes continues its run at Newport Riverfront until Saturday before it continues with its autumn tour. For further details visit www.notaboutheroes.info