Not About Heroes at the Pleasance Dome (Venue 23) is a compelling piece of theatre, telling the story of the War Poets, Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon.
Although this play is set during the First World War, it is, to use Owen’s words, “not about heroes” but about “the pity of war”.
Owen (played by Iestyn Arwel) and Sassoon (Daniel Llewelyn Williams) met as patients in Craiglockhart Hospital in Edinburgh in 1917, while Owen was being treated for neurasthenia. Sassoon was actually there to avoid being court-martialled following the publication of his statement condemning war, after having convinced a review board that he was suffering from shell shock.
At their initial meeting, Sassoon was already a well-known published writer, and Owen an aspiring poet who was shy and nervous about meeting his hero. The play uses Owen’s own words from his letters to his mother and to Sassoon, along with the poetry of both Owen and Sassoon to look at their relationship and how two men from very different backgrounds bonded over their mutual love of poetry and hatred of war to become close friends.
Owen and Sassoon’s feelings and writings about the futility of war are just as relevant today, 100 years later. Both actors give an accomplished and impassioned performance which is extremely moving, although with its moments of humour too, and which brings these two great men vividly to life.
Review by Lisa Sibbald