Marking the centenary of the beginning of the First World War, a beautifully written play about the poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen will be performed at Mansfield Palace Theatre on November 20.
Not About Heroes, from the pen of Stephen MacDonald, chronicles the friendship that developed between the two during wartime.
The play spans their first meeting in 1917 at the Craiglockhart war hospital where both were being treated for ‘war where both were being treated for ‘war neurosis’, to their final meeting in August 1918, shortly before Owen’s return to active duty.
Seen through the eyes of the older Sassoon - who is remembering events from 14 years previously - the play interweaves extracts from their real diaries, letters and poems and suggests that their intense friendship was key to unlocking Owen’s genius as a poet and liberating him as a man.
“I hadn’t actually read the play until I’d been told by my agent that I had an audition for Not About Heroes,” admits Ben Ashton, who plays Wilfred Owen. “I confess I didn’t know much about Wilfred Owen or Siegfried Sassoon either. I read the play and straight away I was gripped.
“ It’s an intimate play about two people and their relationship. When I read it I wanted to find out more about them straight away.”
On a lighter note, he said that one of the biggest challenges of the role is living with a moustache for four months! “I had to grow one for a previous tour and got so much stick for it from friends and family, and even from strangers walking down the street. Back in the First World War it was common place for a man of my age to sport a moustache, but that trend seems to have waned,” he laughs.
Ben’s opposite number, James Howard, who is playing Siegfried Sassoon said: “There is something very special about performing this piece 100 years on from the start of the First World War, and the power of the story is something which I hope audiences will be very moved by.”
One hundred years on from the beginning of the First World War, Not About Heroes is both exhilarating and uncompromising in its exploration of love, war and a friendship that changed the face of poetry.
Tickets for Not About Heroes cost £13.33 (full), £12.30 (concession). Contact 01623 633133 or www.mansfield.gov.uk/palacetheatre