Commemorating the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, the World Premiere of IT IS EASY TO BE DEAD by award-winning playwright Neil McPherson. The play is produced by Bréon Rydell.
Born in Aberdeen, Charles Sorley was studying in Germany when the First World War broke out and was briefly imprisoned as an enemy alien. He was one of the first to join the army in 1914.
Killed in action a year later at the age of 20, his poems are among the most ambivalent , profound and moving war poetry ever written.
It Is Easy To Be Dead tells the story of Sorley’s brief life through his work and music and songs from some of the greatest composers of the period including George Butterworth, Dòmhnall Ruadh Chorùna, Ivor Gurney, John Ireland, Rudi Stephan and Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Unique among the poets of the First World War, Sorley’s life and work fits chronologically into the patriotic idealism of such writers as Julian Grenfell and Rupert Brooke (whom Sorley criticised for his “sentimental attitude”). Perhaps because of his time in Germany before the war, Sorley perceived the truth of the war long before his fellow writers, and anticipated the grim disillusionment of later poets such as Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenberg and Siegfried Sassoon.
The cast includes Jenny Lee (West End, Royal Court Theatre, The Young Vic, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh), Tom Marshall (National Theatre, West End, Royal Court Theatre, Menier Chocolate Factory) and two new discoveries – actor Alexander Knox as Charles Sorley, and acclaimed young tenor Hugh Benson.
Max Key’s beautifully orchestrated production gives us echoes of Sorley’s cultural inheritance through the use of songs by everyone from Schubert to George Butterworth, immaculately sung by Hugh Benson accompanied by Elizabeth Rossiter on piano. Tom Marshall and Jenny Lee play Sorley’s parents with great dignity but the chief burden falls on Alexander Knox, who captures the young poet’s campaigning zeal and quicksilver intelligence in a way that left me much moved.
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!
At once requiem and reclamation, the play takes its blistering title from a celebrated Sorley sonnet, written in rending acknowledgment of the ranks of the dead among whom the poet would soon take his place.
This was a great creation from Neil McPherson introducing us to the voice of the brilliant, unsentimental and honest young Scot. It is a shame that this is now sold out, but it is a testament to the quality of this work. Beg, steal or borrow a ticket to this one!
Highlight of the show – Charles’ entrance, bounding onto the stage with a bolt of energy to deliver ‘The Song of The Ungirt Runners’.
A Celebration of the Life of Billie Brown AM (1952-2013)
Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Brisbane, Australia 4th February 2013
Variations on ‘I Wish I knew how it feels to be Free.’
Introduction and welcome by Garry Scott-Irvine
THE BOY FROM BILOELA
The Moreton Bay Song (trad) performed by Ian Stenlake
A Tribute from Sir. Ian McKellen, read by Bréon Rydell
Selections from original Bille Brown plays:
Bill and Mary, tuff…, The School of Arts and Mr W.H.
Introduced by Carol Burns
Performed by Carol Burns, Kate Foy, Paula Nazarski, Ian Stenlake, Trevor Stuart, Christopher Sommers and Luke Townsend
A Life in the Theatre: photomontage
‘I Wish I knew how it feels to be Free,’ by Billy Taylor & Dick Dallas Performed by Nina Simone
Bille Brown, the actor Kate Foy
A Life on Film Compilation edited by Michael Nield
Tributes and recollections from Neil Armfield
An excerpt from:
Blake, a Modern Oratorio
Written and performed by Bréon Rydell; Music by Tim Sherlock
The Seven Ages of Man
As You Like It, Act II Scene VII by William Shakespeare Performed by Bille Brown
We Are The Dreams
From The Swan Down Gloves by Bille Brown & Nigel Hess Performed by Sandro Colarelli, Alison St Ledger
with the company.
Produced by QPAC, Wesley Enoch, Bréon Rydell and Garry Scott-Irvine.
Bille Brown was the Patron of Brisbane independent theatre company Zen Zen Zo. Over twenty years, Bille generously shared his wisdom with the Artistic Directors, and occasionally taught master classes for company members.
Special thanks to the individuals and organisations who have helped make this event possible.
Acknowledgement: In particular the organisers would like to express their deep sympathies to Bille’s sister, Rita Carter-Brown, on the loss of a great actor and a devoted brother.
The long overdue London premiere of the Broadway musical The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd
With a score packed with standards including A Wonderful Day Like Today, The Joker, Who Can I Turn To? (a hit for Tony Bennett), The Beautiful Land and Feeling Good (a hit for Michael Bublé), The Roar of The Greasepaint, The Smell of The Crowd presents the follies of the irrepressible Cocky and the imperious Sir as they play the comical Game of Life in this timely allegorical satire on the British class system. As they play, demonstrating how the working class can’t get ahead because of the rules set and constantly changed by the ruling classes, they encounter a dizzying array of bizarre and colourful characters who lead them to an unexpected conclusion…
Originally seen for a 1964 pre-London British tour starring Norman Wisdom, The Roar of The Greasepaint was championed by Broadway impresario David Merrick who presented it on Broadway in 1965 starring Anthony Newley and Cyril Ritchard. This production marks the show’s long-overdue London professional premiere.
Award winning writer, composer and lyricist Leslie Bricusse has been nominated for ten Academy Awards, nine Grammys and four Tonys, and has won two Oscars, a Grammy and eight Ivor Novello Awards. In 1989, he received the Kennedy Award for consistent excellence in British songwriting, bestowed by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors, and was inducted into the American Songwriters’ Hall of Fame. Stage musicals include Stop The World – I Want To Get Off (1961), Pickwick (1963), Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), The Good Old Bad Old Days (1974), Scrooge (1970), Victor/Victoria (1982), Sherlock Holmes – The Musical (1989) and Jekyll And Hyde (1997). Songs and/or screenplays for films include Goldfinger (1964), Doctor Dolittle (1967), Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), Scrooge (1970), Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory (1971), Superman (1978), Santa Claus- The Movie (1985), Home Alone (1990), Hook (1991), Tom and Jerry – The Movie (1992), Victor/Victoria (1995) and various Pink Panther movies. Hundreds of Bricusse’s songs have been recorded by major artists including Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Judy Garland, Areth
Cast: Matthew Ashforde. Oliver Beamish. Terry Doe. Jennifer Done. Tahir Ozkan. Louisa Maxwell. Beth Morrissey. Elizabeth Rowden. Tanya Shields. Charlotte Silver. Lucy Watts. Hannah Wilding
Directed by Ian Judge, RSC
Designed by three times Olivier Award winner Tim Goodchild
Produced by Bréon Rydell and Finborough Theatre
This show, which starred Norman Wisdom and Elaine Paige in its original production in 1964, is well-rehearsed and the production values are very high. Beamish and Ashforde convincingly play to their stereotypes and work well together to display this relationships of opposites on stage. Add cameos from Doe, Louisa Maxwell as the balletic girl and the physical beast that is Tahir Ozhan as the bull, and there are plenty of elements to keep you guessing to the conclusion.
Almost 50 years after it was written, the Finborough’s Celebrating British Music Theatre series seems a far more fitting setting for Greasepaint than the West End or Broadway. Under Ian Judge’s nimble direction (his next engagement is Romeo et Juliett conducted by Plácido Domingo at Los Angeles Opera) this is an eccentric and disturbing curiosity that makes a refreshing antidote to West End glitz and gaudiness.