Saturday, 22 December 2012
An enthralling evening at the Almeida tonight to see The Dark Earth and the Light Sky, a new play about the poet Edward Thomas - and now there's two more books on my list for 2013, his wife Helen's memoir (too frank by far, apparently, for his friend Robert Frost who never forgave Helen for writing it) and also the the recent biography by Matthew Hollis, Now All Roads Lead to France.
Edward Thomas was encouraged to write poetry by Frost and wrote 144 poems in a creative outpouring from 1914 until he was killed at Arras in 1917. A shell passed so close that the blast of air stopped his heart and he died without a mark on his body.
He was a prickly, difficult, depressive character with a deep love of England's countryside, a physical coward who enlisted when he didn't have to, his decision influenced - or so the play has it - by his friend's poem The Road Not Taken. For Thomas, the two roads that diverged were the opportunity of going to America to write and work on Frost's farm ... and the road to France.
The play delves into his unhappy marriage to Helen and his relationship with spinsterish Eleanor Farjeon who loves him but has never kissed a man.
I was engrossed from the moment Pip Carter, who plays Thomas, walked onto the stage - and astonished later to realise how physically he resembles the poet.
A wonderful evening and the theatre was packed. (Thought I saw Julian Barnes there but am too short-sighted to be a reliable spotter of literary celebrities in the wild.)
Incidentally, my ticket in the stalls (a perfectly tolerable restricted view) was £8, considerably less than the local cinema.