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THEATRE ONLINE It Is Easy to Be Dead, Finborough Theatre

Moving drama on untimely death of WWI poet Charles Hamilton Sorley

OF SMALL comfort to theatre’s enduring existential crises during this unprecedented period is the ability to reach wider audiences online.

For a tiny hidden gem of a pub theatre such as the Finborough in West London, it is perhaps something they could look to utilise to take their productions beyond the 50, often sold-out, seats for their productions.

The story of first-world-war poet Charles Hamilton Sorley, the subject of It Is Easy to Be Dead, is certainly one a wider audience deserves to see.

Far more than just “another dead public-schoolboy’s memorial volume” initially scorned by Sorley’s grieving father, his letters and poems paint a vivid picture of a life cut short by senseless warfare.

Neil McPherson’s text effortlessly intersperses verbatim testimony from Sorley himself with scenes of his grief-stricken parents discussing how best to release his words to the world alongside some stirring songs from the period.

It is testament to McPherson, artistic director of the Finborough for over three decades, that the domestic scenes provide some of the most moving sequences.

The insult of receiving a cheque of £14 pounds, 12 shillings and 4 pence to compensate their son’s life is particularly palpable in the understated performances of William (Tom Marshall) and Janet (Jenny Lee).

But it is Alexander Knox in the leading role who really binds the production together. His delivery of Sorley’s poetry is captivating, imbuing every word with feeling and finding their defiant rhythm.

His journey is brought to life by Max Key’s direction, which transcends the small space with subtle movement sequences and Rob Lee’s projections that allow switches of location in the bat of an eyelid.

First performed in 2016, this is a very welcome digital revival from a lifeblood theatre we simply cannot afford to lose.

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