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Guest ItIsEasyToBeDead

By Neil McPherson

Finborough Theatre
Wednesday 15 June - Saturday 9 July 2016

The world premiere

“And your bright Promise, withered long and sped,
Is touched, stirs, rises, opens and grows sweet
And blossoms and is you, when you are dead.”

Commemorating the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, the world premiere of It Is Easy To Be Dead by award-winning playwright Neil McPherson.

Born in Aberdeen, Charles Sorley was studying in Germany when the First World War broke out and was briefly imprisoned as an enemy alien. He was one of the first to join the army in 1914.

Killed in action a year later at the age of 20, his poems are among the most ambivalent , profound and moving war poetry ever written.

It Is Easy To Be Dead tells the story of Sorley's brief life through his work and music and songs from some of the greatest composers of the period including George Butterworth, Dòmhnall Ruadh Chorùna, Ivor Gurney, John Ireland, Rudi Stephan and Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Unique among the poets of the First World War, Sorley's life and work fits chronologically into the patriotic idealism of such writers as Julian Grenfell and Rupert Brooke (whom Sorley criticised for his "sentimental attitude"). Perhaps because of his time in Germany before the war, Sorley perceived the truth of the war long before his fellow writers, and anticipated the grim disillusionment of later poets such as Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenberg and Siegfried Sassoon.

The cast includes Jenny Lee (West End, Royal Court Theatre, The Young Vic, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh), Tom Marshall (National Theatre, West End, Royal Court Theatre, Menier Chocolate Factory) and two new discoveries – actor Alexander Knox as Charles Sorley, and acclaimed young tenor Hugh Benson.

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That looks tempting!

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  • 4 years later...
Martin Bennitt

Just pointing out that this is available on U-Tube for free until July 7. Saw it the other night and can greatly recommend




Cheers Martin B

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19 hours ago, Martin Bennitt said:

can greatly recommend

Just finished watching the entire play and wasn't it just wonderful.  Quite moving, a very well balanced cast, imaginative story telling and as he mentioned his many classmates, their name, date of death and age were projected onto the wall.


Glad his parents published his works.





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Michelle Young

Wonder why it wasn't originally staged in 2015 to commemorate the centenary of Sorleys death at Loos? 

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Ron Clifton

Sorley is commemorated on the war memorial in Great St Mary's Church, Cambridge. His father was a professor at King's College. His name is also on the Loos Memorial to the Missing.


One of Sorley's poems, Expectans expectavi, was set to music by Charles Wood, later the Professor of Music at Cambridge. The name of Wood's son, Patrick, appears below Sorley's on the war memorial.



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