Gary Kitching
The Worriers and Alphabetti Theatre
Alphabetti Theatre, Newcastle


“My subject is War, and the Pity of War,” wrote Wilfred Owen, as he sketched out the preface for the book of poems he hoped to publish in 1919 (but didn’t, of course, as he was killed just a week before the Armistice). “The Poetry,” he added, “is in the Pity.” And in that vision of hell, Strange Meeting, he talks of “the pity of war, the pity war distilled.”

Gary Kitching’s Wilfred, however, is not about Lt Wilfred Owen, the poet, but about Cpl Wilfred Wright, a would-be poet. This Wilfred, when we meet him, is in a field hospital suffering from a bayonet wound in the buttocks and shell shock. He has vividly frightening dreams, memories of holding one of his men, trying to keep him alive as he dies in agony in his arms.

Actor Jack Lloyd compellingly captures the pain, the fear and the despair Wilfred suffers, both in the dreams and in the times between as he talks to Nurse Mabel Syrup (Megan Robson) with whom he strikes up a friendly relationship and whose name provides a great deal of wry amusement, for her husband, killed not long after their marriage, was a Canadian.

They talk; personal things such as what persuaded her to become a nurse and she wonders if she should have worked in munitions instead, about his family, his peacetime job and he reveals that he writes poetry.

It has to be said that he is not a very good poet. But then the poetry’s value is therapeutic, helping him to come to terms with—even try to make sense of—the horrors with which he is faced.

“The Poetry is in the Pity” and, in that sense, the whole situation which Kitching creates so movingly is itself a poem. Fine performances by the two actors under the sensitive guidance of director Paula Penman are complemented by a nicely judged (both in choice of song and volume of reproduction) soundtrack of contemporary recordings of popular songs of the day, from “Mademoiselle from Armentières” to “Keep the Home Fires Burning.”

There are no performances On 29, 30 and 31 October.

Reviewer: Peter Lathan

Are you sure?