It Is Easy To Be Dead
Trafalgar Studios 2
11 November 2017
It is Easy To Be Dead tells the story of Charles Hamilton Sorley, a young Scotsman who became known posthumously for his poetry and letters, written in the few years prior to the First World War and right up until his death at the age of 20 in 1915.
The play incorporates music from a variety of sources performed by talented tenor Hugh Benson accompanied by Elizabeth Rossiter on piano, with the drama coming from the words of Sorley himself, and from the viewpoint of his parents at home.
Alexander Knox plays Sorley in a striking performance that very much holds this production together. Lively, animated, emotional, real, Knox takes the writings of Sorley and brings them wondrously to live with a zeal that is astounding. It’s a staggering performance that is full of humour, pathos and truth, made all the more powerful when you realise Sorley’s age at the time of writing.
As Sorley’s parents, Tom Marshall and Jenny Lee are everything you could want. Proud, prudent, emotive, they play these parts truthfully, making the loss of their son all the more moving.
Through the clever use of video projection, the sheer enornormity of the conflict and the staggering and tremendous loss of young men is felt. Rob Mills (LKighting and Video Design) and Nathan Hamilton (Sound Design) never overpower Sorley’s words, but in subtle shades underscore them and make them all the more powerful. Phil Lindley’s simple but effective set gives the cast a canvas upon which they can amply bring the enormity of the conflict and Sorley’s world to life.
Neil McPherson’s play is economic but in the hands of director Max Key, it is a dervish that by the end of Act Two had me in tears and left me tremendously moved.
Walking out onto Whitehall mid-evening on Remberance Day, and seeing veterans with their medals walking up towards Trafalgar Square, was a final devastating blow that left Sorley in my mind for most of the weekend. I must admit to spending time on the weekend finding more of Sorley’s work to read.
Sorley it seems never necessarily followed the party line, he was an independent thinker and a brilliant observer. His loss at age 20 makes you wonder what we lost in his early departure from this earth.