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.
Following a critically acclaimed sell-out run at the Finborough Theatre where it was nominated for seven OffWestEnd Awards. Producer Bréon Rydell has announced that It Is Easy To Be Dead will transfer to Trafalgar Studio 2 for a limited season from 9 November to 3 December 2016.
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.
The Guardian - Michael Billington
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.
The Upcomming - LUISA KAPP
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!
New York Times - Matt Wolf
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.
Ginger Wig and Strolling Man
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’.