'Not About Heroes' by Stephen MacDonald
Directed by: Richard Parish
Design by: John Tytherleigh
Lighting by: Nigel Greenaway
Sound by: Alex Lyon
Cast: Nick Lund and David Webb
For a direct link to the GALLERY of PHOTOGRAPHS of this production CLICK: Not About Heroes
'Not About Heroes' is a powerful and intriguing study of friendship, love, courage and poetic genius in the face of battle, 'Not About Heroes' is the true story of the meeting of war poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon in the summer of 1917. It movingly depicts the intense relationship between the two men, whose lives have been caught up in the mess of warfare. Their story is painful in its relevance to the events of today in war-torn communities around the world.
This production was presented at both Riverhouse, Walton-on-Thames and Cranleigh Arts Centre
REVIEW OF 'NOT ABOUT HEROES' BY JEFF THOMSON
Stephen Macdonald’s play “Not about Heroes” explores the relationship between two soldier poets, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. The script relentlessly works towards an overpowering poignancy played out against the backdrop of the First World War.
It is 1917 and in Craiglockhart War Hospital we discover two men seemingly troubled with words and the challenge of iambic pentameter. But all too soon we stumble into the realities of their wider world - one that is harrowing and one in which we discover filth, mangled limbs and dismembered corpses. Together they share the horrors of the Somme and the obscenities of Passchendaele – their nightmares reproduced in stanzas dredged from a swamp of words and rotting remains.
The play also juxtaposes the sensitivities of the two men, their battlefield bravery (both were awarded the MC) with a deepening regard for each other. Macdonald is coy about the depth of feeling between two known homosexual men but Richard Parish as director subtly hints at a homoerotic affection with lingering eye contact and a close physical bonding. Perhaps both are right to show restraint – Wilfred Owen is known to have been in awe of Seigfried Sassoon, but Sassoon’s despair at the early death of his friend David Thomas, tends to suggest his core interest might have lain elsewhere.
David Webb as Sassoon began a self-assured portrayal as a bluff, even pompous man, developing this into a caring and protective tutor-friend. Nick Lund as Wilfred Owen revealed, with an economy of style, a diffident and emotionally shattered personality. Seated at his desk and writing to his ‘dearest Mother’ a tremulous voice and shaking hand prepared us for the graphic details of warfare. His regular letters home spared his Mother nothing of these horrors. It was a compelling performance.
John Tytherleigh’s set design gave a symbolic impact, with two desks against a desolate horizon, allowing the poetry and prose to dominate. This was especially effective as Sassoon worked with Owen on the ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ – Sassoon’s comments and the handwritten amendments to Owen’s draft may still be seen.
“Not about Heroes” is a reflective piece that demands attention – its subject is war and the pity of war – a quote from Owen’s preface to an anthology proposed for publication in 1919; Wilfred Owen, however, was shot in the head a week before the 1918 armistice was signed.
The production may also be seen in Cranleigh Arts Centre on 11 & 12 November.
REVIEW OF 'NOT ABOUT HEROES' BY ROGER MOODY
Armistice Day; an on-going war in Afghanistan with its desperate and increasing toll of human sacrifices; and even Andrew Marr’s television series “The Making of Modern Britain”, this particular evening, dealing with the first world war.
Wednesday 11th November at Cranleigh Arts Centre for Richard Parish’s production by The Lighted Fools Theatre Company of “Not About Heroes” was never going to be more poignant.
Anyone who has navigated the theatre company’s website to read this review of this particular production of Stephen Macdonald’s play will not need reminding that it is about the literary – and deeper - relationship of war poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen when convalescing away from the killing fields in 1917.
Are their thoughts, their writings, their individual cries against the futility of war any less significant than those of men – and women - today?
Two remarkable performances by David Webb, as Sassoon, and Nick Lund, as Owen, quite literally stunned the audience into silence.
Webb, a civil servant when not acting, is the dominating, older Sassoon - the complexities of a decorated soldier and a poet from a privileged background convincingly reconstructed in his portrayal.
A Lighted Fools veteran of twelve productions, David is obviously not only a huge asset to the company but in this riveting two-hander, enhances his reputation, this time as a serving officer lucky not to be court- martialed for his stand against war in his writings.
Alongside, Nick Lund’s characterisation of the stuttering, initially timid Owen, in awe and eventually “in love” with Sassoon, is visually perfect and totally believable even when having to compete with the distraction of the over-efficient art centre’s air conditioning!
But what greater accolade for IT consultant Nick, and the entire company, than that of Wilfred Owen's nephew when, on seeing this production on its “tour” at Walton-on-Thames, believed it to be better than the original!
John Tytherleigh’s set, with its simple but effective big, rear screen, moved effortlessly from interior to exterior whilst Alex Lyon’s sound effects reflected the terrors of the trenches.
A new-comer to the productions of Richard Parish, but not of either the professional or amateur stage, one can only applaud the standards set. All in all a masterful production.
Is this though “Not About Heroes” but rather “the pity of war”?
COMMENTS FROM OUR AUDIENCE ON 'NOT ABOUT HEROES'
Really enjoyed the play tonight- lovely set, gorgeous lighting and sound, well directed and very well acted-what more could you want for a good evening in the theatre? Congratulations to all concerned.
A fab night - excellent production. It needed both cast members to be bang on or the whole thing could have been very grim indeed.
I have to congratulate Lighted Fools on an excellent production. Nick Lund's and David Webb's standard of performance was spot on and the level of intensity just right for the intimate venue of the Riverhouse in Walton.
It was hard to remember this was an amateur production - it is the level of amateur theatre I aspire to but have not yet achieved. Please keep me on your mailing list, and hopefully I can be inspired by future Lighted Fools productions.
Congratulations to everyone on a very moving piece of theatre.
So much enjoyed the play on Wednesday.
I was greatly moved by the way the relationship of these two men grew to be so deep. It is seldom that I go to plays where I feel totally involved and drawn in to the emotions of the characters. This was one. Their relationship was very finely drawn.
Many congratulations to the two wonderful actors who were absolutely believable. Also to the whole production team; a complete and convincing set, costumes, music and lighting.
All the best for your run at Cranleigh. Everyone has been raving about it and very rightly so.
Congrats again on ‘Heroes’ - a superb production which I know many RDG’ers enjoyed.
I just want to add my congratulations to you on a truly great production. The first act was particularly tense and touching. Thank you all!
Just to say thank you so much for a wonderfully moving evening.
The acting of David Webb and Nick Lund was superb. They brought out the ghastliness and horror of war and how it affects everyone.
It is a terrific, thought provoking, production.
It was superb. The standard you have set is extremely high and you hit that standard every time.The two leads were most convincing.
I can’t remember ever sitting in an audience that was so wrapped up in a performance, forgetting themselves, and relaxing into your world. I was simply enthralled. It was like watching Derren Brown – you wonder both how he did it and how he made it look so effortless.
Huge congratulations - the acting was superb. David Webb was wonderful as always and Nick Lund, well my words cannot do justice - what a powerful sensitive performance.
I thought the music was very powerful, emotional and just..............moving.
That was one of, if not THE most powerful, poignant, moving play I have ever seen. Super in all respects.
I think sometimes that good amateurs are so much better than ordinary professionals who, on occasions, look bored with what they are doing whereas your two actors were deeply absorbed in the interaction between the characters they were representing.
What a super production that was - I think it is one of the best plays Lighted Fools has done – acting, set design, costumes and lighting all brilliant!
I thought the play was most moving - so very well acted and it carried one's undivided attention throughout. A tour-de-force and quite the best we've had from you! Well done indeed!
A really moving and thought-provoking evening.
I was impressed by the performances, they made the two characters come to life. Really quite unforgettable. I have been reading my old collection of Sassoon poems with fresh interest.
FROM: THE DECEMBER 2009 NEWSLETTER of ST MARY'S SCHOOL, WORCESTER
On Remembrance Day itself, the Y12 English Literature and Drama and Theatre Studies groups joined forces to see a production of Stephen MacDonald’s, “Not About Heroes”. The play brings to life the friendship of the two great World War I poets, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, as remembered through Sassoon’s eyes fourteen years after the end of the war and Owen’s death. The production by Lighted Fools Theatre Company at Cranleigh Arts Centre in Surrey was deeply memorable. It was a powerful opportunity for the English Literature students to experience one of their set texts in performance. For the Drama and Theatre Studies group, the mix of theatrical styles has given them plenty of food for thought in preparation for their exams. It was certainly a stirring way to commemorate Armistice Day.
AND...............TWO LETTERS RECEIVED
Dear Mr Webb and Mr Lund
I am sorry that Cranleigh could not produce an audience of more than 35 for the matinee of 'Not About Heroes' - but I think you must have picked up how much they enjoyed the play. Perhaps 'enjoyed' is too weak a word for something that was deeply impressive and also deeply moving. As we left the theatre everyone was calling your performance 'brilliant' and 'wonderful' and other words of praise.
My wife and I loved your interpretation of the characters and were also very impressed by the structure and the dramatic effectiveness of the play. I have always had a great interest in the poetry of the First World War and the occasional quotations had great power, particularly the episode of 'Anthem For Doomed Youth'.
On several occasions I felt tears coming on and I had to wipe my eyes surreptitiously at the end of both acts before I could be seen in public. It was also an education in the poetry of Sassoon, since several of his poems were included which I did not know.
To cut the cackle, I thought you were both terrific and I thank you very much for creating such a moving dramatic experience.
I was at Clare in the fifties and Sassoon came back to give a talk to the English Society in 1956. Sadly, I have only vague recollections of the occasion. From now on, Mr Webb's characterisation will be a good substitute.
Dear Richard Parish
My husband David and I felt we had to drop you a line to tell you how very much we enjoyed your company's performance in Cranleigh on Wednesday evening.
We are very familiar with the work and the biographies of both Sassoon and Owen, and the whole Craiglockhart story, but your two leading men gave such terrific performances that it was as fresh and as heart-rending as if it were all new to us. We were particularly impressed by the way you were managing to engage the emotions and interest of all the younger people in the audience too.
What a shame it was for so few performances! We can't tell all our friends to hurry along to see it.
Please pass on our thanks and compliments to everyone involved.