Reviewed by Tony Peters
The mark of a strong and lasting relationship is that one is prepared to forgive any transgressions and moments of weakness. It’s a rule that holds just as true for us lovers of theatre, but she can sometimes be a trying mistress.
On paper this musical interpretation of Wilfred Owen’s war poetry seems to have a lot going for it: musical contributions from Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour, script contributions by David Quantick and a narration by Christopher Timothy — albeit disembodied.
Owen’s story itself is a compelling tale. Forced to move from a comfortable house owned by his grandfather to the rougher area of Birkenhead, the young Owen showed determination, driven by his strong religious faith, to better himself. After a period of working as a teacher, he enrolled in the army and was soon plunged into battle in the First World War. The horrors he witnessed and experienced in the trenches inspired a body of work that now marks him as probably the greatest of the war poets.
Writer and director Dean Johnson’s play even makes quite a promising start with a title song performed by Lindsay Field that has a nice turn of phrase and infectious chorus.
Sadly after that the whole things goes rapidly downhill. Despite the best efforts of Chloe Torpey as Owen’s mother, what should be a heart-rending tale fails to engage either on a dramatic or emotional level. Unmemorable song follows unmemorable song until the brief sixty-minute running time begins to feel as long as the war itself.
Charlotte Roberts contributes choreography of little relevance that falls somewhat uneasily between contemporary dance and mime and only succeeds in tipping the whole affair into a rather embarrassing pretentiousness.
The life and work of Wilfred Owen has the potential to make a gripping and emotive piece of theatre, sadly this isn’t it.
Directed by Dean Johnson
Written by Dean Johnson
Music by Dean Johnson
Additional script contributions from David Quantick and Paolo Hewitt
Additional music by David Gilmour
Susan OwenChloe Torpey
The FigureCharlotte Roberts
The SingerLindsay Field
Featured narrationChristopher Timothy
The Homeless VeteranDean Johnson