On Monday, 4 November 1918 Second Lieutenant Wilfred Owen was killed in action during the crossing of the Sambre-Oise Canal. On Sunday, 4 November 2018 Marlborough Town Hall will host War, And The Pity Of War – a programme of Owen’s poetry and letters read by distinguished actors Dame Janet Suzman and Alex Waldmann.
Owen’s poetry – he said wrote about ‘war, and the pity of war’ – has become central to later generations’ understanding of the First World War. His words were set to music by Benjamin Britten for his powerful War Requiem and have been a staple of EngLit in schools.
Aged twenty-five, Owen was killed a week – almost to the minute – before the signing of the Armistice that end the War. Not only did his death come so close to war’s end, but at his Shrewsbury home, his mother learned of her son’s death on the day church bells rang out to mark the Armistice.
The programme for this Armistice centenary event was devised by Dr. Roger Pringle and commissioned by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust for the Stratford Poetry Festival. His many poetry programmes have been presented at leading festivals in the UK and abroad.
Dame Janet Suzman received an Oscar nomination for her performance in Nicholas and Alexandra, has twice won the Evening Standard Award for best actress and has been nominated three times for a BAFTA Award. As the leading lady with the Royal Shakespeare Company she played all the main heroines: Kate, Portia, Ophelia, Beatrice, Rosalind, Volumnia and her Cleopatra is widely regarded as the finest of its generation.
Alex Waldmann is one of Britain’s most prolific classical actors. He has played major roles with the Royal Shakespeare, National Theatre and Globe companies, including: Troilus in Troilus and Cressida, Sebastian in Twelfth Night, Horatio and Laertes in Hamlet, Henry VI in The Wars of the Roses, Orlando in As You Like It, Bertram in All’s Well That Ends Well, Brutus in Julius Caesar, and the title-role in King John.
“This is an amazing thing to be putting on”, said Nicholas Fogg, on behalf of Marlborough Arts Association. “The word ‘unique’ is pretty overworked, but it certainly applies to this event. To celebrate one of the most loved poets in the English language on the very centenary of his death in action, is something very special.”
The performance – at 7.30pm on Sunday, 4 November, is sponsored by Hiscox Insurance and is part of Marlborough Town Council’s Great War Centenary Commemorations. Tickets at £20 are being sold at the White Horse Bookshop (cash or cheque only) – and through the Pound Arts Trust on 01249-701628 or www.poundarts.com
FOOTNOTE: On the day after his death, Wilfred Owen was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant and in February 1919 he was awarded the Military Cross.
Photo credits: Dame Janet Suzman – cvopyright Dan Wooller/WireImage. Alex Waldmann – copyright Charlie Carter.