Seen at Edinburgh Festival Fringe on the 23rd of August 2019
4 stars – Sepia poetry
Three weeks gone and the combatants gone
returning over the nightmare ground
we found the place again, and found
the soldier sprawling in the sun. […]
An homage to Keith Douglas, Unicorns, Almost portrays a vivid image of the English poet, under the tragic light of World War II.
The stage looks like a military camp: sand sacks and thick tarps on the ground, together with the sepia and brown palette, contribute to a sandy image of wartime. The only comfort seems to be the left corner, where a desk, a chair, a lamp, fountain pens and paper form the other attributes of the soldier-poet.
With memories of cheerful dances, lovely fiancées and good mates, the strength of youth takes life on stage together with the reports of war, juxtaposed in the whirlwind of Douglas’s short life. He talks about war and some of the battles he could not win: the publication of his poems’ collection during his lifetime, and the will for a title which has not been respected.
Some bits of his original poems are integrated in the play. But ʻpoeticʼ is a quality of the whole script, by Owen Sheers: his beautiful images and powerful language allow the audience to see what is not presented on scene. Scenes of war’s destruction aren’t but evoked, and nonetheless create a strong impression, also thanks to Dan Krikler’s interpretation. Same for the death of Douglas’s fellow soldiers, who are elegised and honoured, and lifted to the status of mythical creatures, almost.
Even if the actor’s posture is not really the one of a soldier, Krikler is convincing in Douglas’s role. He manages very well this one-hour, solo show, to which John Retallack’s direction brings movement and balance. The script of the show (produced by The Story of Books) is also available for purchase in Faber & Faber’s edition.
2nd – 25th August, 1.15 pm
Running time: 1 hour
Army @The Fringe in Association with Summerhall (Venue 210), 89 East Claremont Street, Edinburgh EH7 4HU