It Is Easy to Be Dead at the Finborough Theatre
In honour of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Somme, the Finborough Theatre in west London debuts Neil McPherson’s It Is Easy to Be Dead, a heartbreaking portrayal of the young life of a soldier and poet during WWI.
The story follows the real life of poet Charles Hamilton Sorley, who, according to John Masefield, was “potentially the greatest poet lost to us in that war…had Sorley lived, he might have become our greatest dramatist since Shakespeare”. The play is cleverly divided into two simultaneous strands of action: while it begins with the death of the young man, his life is retold through his poetry and in letters read by his parents. His studies in Germany, his adventures with his host family and his fear at the start of the war are all touchingly portrayed. Alexander Knox, who plays Charles Sorley, is simply marvellous at capturing the range of emotions his character goes through — his enthusiasm over a new life and his desperation when he has to watch his friends die for a cause he does not believe in.
Sorely’s unique poetry is accompanied by music of the time, young tenor Hugh Benson embodying the turn of the century in his voice and beautifully underlaying the action. Though the set is simple and the cast small, the play is extremely powerful, a tribute not only to the poet himself but to all the others who lost their lives and the ones they left behind. Knox’s performance and emotion are so genuine, one prop combined with projections behind him suffices to transport the viewer to the battlefield and feel the desolation for themselves. Throughout the play, writer Neil McPherson’s words always hit the right note; humorous as well as earnest lines feel authentic and moving.
It Is Easy to Be Dead is a rare and unexpected find that nobody should miss!
Photo: Scott Rylander
It Is Easy to Be Dead is on at the Finborough Theatre from 15th June until 9th July 2016, for further information or to book visit here.