It is Easy to Be Dead at Finborough Theatre online
For those of us looking for new inspiration during the coronavirus lockdown, the Finborough Theatre is presenting its Olivier-nominated drama It is Easy to be Dead free on YouTube until 7th July. While the play, at first, seems like your typical anti-war piece set during the First World War, it quickly becomes apparent that it is so much more than that: Neil McPherson’s writing mixes some excellent prose of his own with Charles Hamilton Sorley’s undeservedly forgotten poetry and witty letters, and finishes it off with some gorgeous music by a range of composers from the early 20th century and before. The result is a beautiful and moving homage to Sorley which won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
McPherson’s tribute highlights the poet’s life, letters, and poetry, resulting in a well-rounded portrayal of a character who yearned for life and had a passion for language and culture, and the show does it in such a way that one cannot help but get swept away by his story.
Sorley – according to Robert Graves “one of the three poets of importance killed during the First World War”, along with Wilfred Owen and Isaac Rosenberg – spent a year in Germany after having been educated at Marlborough; there he fell in love with the country’s region, culture, and people. As the war broke out, he found himself in a troubled situation; how does one go to war against a country which one has learnt not to demonise in the way one’s fellow brothers-in-arms do?
Sorley’s story is brought lovingly to life through McPherson’s clever use of primary and secondary materials, and Alexander Knox’s passionate portrayal as the poet is spectacular. On top of that, a humble and highly effective stage design by Phil Lindley and an atmospheric use of music by Elizabeth Rossiter turn it into quite a memorable ride indeed.
The play’s title is taken from Sorley’s Sonnet XXXIV, and given how forgotten he has become, it is perfectly fitting in more than one way. It is Easy to Be Dead is more than just another anti-war play: it’s an emotional, justified and full depiction of a poet who needs to be remembered, and it succeeds in every way. An absolute must-see.
Photo: Scott Rylander
It is Easy to Be Dead is available to stream on YouTube from 7th May until 7th July 2020. For further information visit the Finborough Theatre’s website here.