When young Second Lieutenant Wilfred Owen was sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital in 1917, suffering from shell shock, he was to meet another patient who would become a firm friend and mentor. That patient was Siegfried Sassoon, who had been sent to Craiglockhart as an alternative to a court martial after he had written his anti-war Soldier's Declaration.
"Not About Heroes" takes its title from Owen's introduction to his collection of poems where he states “This book is not about heroes... My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity.” The play is based on the poems and letters of both men, as Sassoon remembers and relives his relationship with Owen.
There are only two actors in this play - James Howard as Sassoon and Ben Ashton as Owen - and they both play their roles with great feeling. Owen's growth from a nervous, shaking young man to one who gains in confidence as he starts to have poems published is portrayed convincingly by Ben Ashton. James Howard plays Sassoon initially as a somewhat arrogant man who views Owen almost as something of a "hero worshipper", but who also has his own fears and weaknesses.
The Brunton Theatre is a perfect venue for this production, as it is small and intimate enough for the audience to feel really involved with and part of what is happening on stage. The stage set and musical/visual backgrounds are very simple, and the entire play really rests with the two actors, who gave a very memorable and moving performance. It's not the sort of play you can really say you "enjoyed", but it's one that stays in your mind long after the performance is over.
Review by Lisa Sibbald