It is certainly an accomplishment when a cast of two is able to hold an audience’s attention for almost two hours. Despite a slow start with miming, that slightly dragged and wasn’t necessarily essential in setting the scene, from the first duologue the chemistry between the characters was apparent. Both actors were highly capable and, despite rare slip-ups, created believable, naturalistic characters, which was vital considering that both characters are based on real men, the poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon.
The play begins with Sassoon looking back on his relationship with Owen and follows their developing friendship as well as their experiences during the First World War. Both actors clearly demonstrated the effects the horrors of war have had, and continue to have, on so many people. However, at times the emotion came across as slightly forced and wasn’t always naturalistic but, this is most likely due to first night nerves or a lack of rehearsal time to dissect each line of every monologue. Even so, both actors effectively conveyed the humour of the excellent script and the duologues were, without exception, engaging, thought-provoking and, at times, mesmerising.
Both actors clearly demonstrated the effects the horrors of war have had, and continue to have, on so many people.
The stage was split into three separate sets which, largely due to lighting, the action ran smoothly between. However, at moments, the presence of the three settings on one stage could be slightly distracting or confusing for the audience and had the potential to impact on the believability of the scene. At the opening the audience is met with a black backdrop which is littered with poppies entangled in barbed wire. Despite being an interesting and appropriate idea, I felt the design seemed more to reflect that of a child’s arts and crafts project and didn’t particularly add to the themes or action of the play.
The performance was greatly aided by excellent use of lighting which guided the audience through the action with ease, despite it being interspersed with monologues and letters and jumping between Sassoon in 1932 and various points during the First World War.
Despite only containing two characters, the play alludes to several other soldiers who died horrific deaths during the war, reminding us of the millions of young men who lost their lives
Not about Heroes is a well written text, an appropriate choice given that last year marked the centenary of the First World War. For a modern day audience who are all too familiar with the works of Sassoon and particularly that of Owen, it is fascinating to see their poetry brought to life. The audience were able to note how Owen’s poetry developed and how it was influenced by Sassoon, enabling us to understand the references in their poetry, for example Sassoon’s loss of his brother. Despite only containing two characters, the play alludes to several other soldiers who died horrific deaths during the war, reminding us of the millions of young men who lost their lives. This play certainly taught its audience that “war is not glorious”, serving as a platform for some very engaging, naturalistic acting and is well worth a watch.
‘Not About Heroes’ is running at the Nottingham New Theatre until Saturday 14th March, for more information see here.
Check out the NSTV backstage video here.