This isn’t a rant about how much I despise prose and rhyme in all its forms, no, no. Of poetry, I am a fan.
Something else I am a fan of is bloody good theatre and bloody good theatre is something that I saw last night.
Bloody Poetry – a play written by Howard Brenton and currently showing at the White Bear Theatre in Kennington – is not a play I’m familiar with, however I must say that it was thoroughly enjoyable. Good theatre is often difficult to seek out in London. Often you find yourself paying way over the odds to watch a cast that would be lucky to get a walk-on part on Hollyoaks (the West End production of Lord of the Rings for instance). However, with Bloody Poetry, I was fortunate to be entertained by not only a bloody good script, but also a fantastic troupe of bloody good actors.
The piece itself tells the tale of two great poets of our time – Shelley and Byron – and how they first met on the shores of Lake Geneva, then of the subsequent summer of love that followed…
I’ll admit I originally only went along to support my dear friend and old acting partner, Alex Barclay. He’s a damn fine actor and appears in the play as Doctor Polidori, biographer to Lord Byron. I haven’t seen Al in a few months, so I saw last night as a chance to catch up and say hi etc…
But I’m not writing this post for him (sorry Al – I love you really).
I’m putting this post together because the play really is that good. I came out beaming. Byron is perfectly pitched as the horny, swashbuckling cad he no doubt was back in his day. Providing some humorous asides throughout the performance, just think of Rik Mayall’s Lord Flashheart, add in some poetic pathos and you’re there. Ellie Turner – cast as soon-to-be author of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley – brings a fantastic realism and stoic worldly-ness to a woman who no doubt would have felt almost on the outskirts of the strange quartet that forms around her. Wise beyond her years, her talent is plain to see and was played perfectly. It feels rude to neglect the rest of the cast (who were all excellent) but I fear I am rambling so will leave you with a piece of blurb from the website and booking details too.
If you’re in London and you fancy something different one night this October, go and see Bloody Poetry, you won’t be disappointed.
“Percy Bysshe Shelley, radical nonconformist, poet, essayist, and committed vegetarian, fled England in 1816 with Mary Shelley and her step-sister Claire Clairmont.
Faced with unrest at home and Revolution abroad, England in 1816 had become a repressive surveillance state; exile was both a choice and a necessity for a poet who advocated for social justice, practised free love and opposed inherited power in any form.
On 25th May 1816, the Shelleys met Lord Byron on the shore of Lake Geneva. Together with Byron’s physician, Dr Polidori, the group spent the summer together, during which Mary began writing ‘Frankenstein’ and Byron and Shelley deepened their friendship. ‘Bloody Poetry’ explores the personal and political passions which drove these young writers and the obstacles they faced. It celebrates their daring while revealing their humanity. As a qualified idealist, Shelley still dares us to dream:
“The great instrument of moral good is the imagination. We must not let it become diseased…We might be all we dream of, happy, high, majestical. Where is the love, beauty and truth we seek, but in our mind? Poets are the legislators of mankind!””
The play runs Tuesday – Sunday until the end of this month. Tickets are £12.00 (£10.00 concessions) and are available from the White Bear Box Office website.