The Dark Earth and the Light Sky

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© Nobby Clark
Pandora Colin (Eleanor), Hattie Morahan (Helen), Shaun Dooley (Robert) and Pip Carter (Edward)

'Two roads diverged in a… wood', runs 'The Road Not Taken', Robert Frost's most famous poem. But in Nick Dear's play, superbly but subtly directed by Richard Eyre, there were two men in that wood and it wasn't necessarily Frost who took the less-travelled path.

Edward Thomas was a jobbing writer when he befriended the American poet in London; Frost helped him towards poetry, although despite their shared worship of nature, they were very different poets. Thomas enlisted, dying in France in 1917 while his friend grew famous and old.

Dear flouts chronology and the fourth wall, letting his characters confide in us, the unborn audience, and so giving anachronistic voice to the women: Thomas's mistreated wife, Helen, and the writer Eleanor Farjeon, who is both salve and abrasive in the Thomases' complicated coupling.

On Bob Crowley's set, stark as a poem or a trench, Pip Carter is wonderful as Edward, a touchy yet oddly loveable depressive, as is Hattie Morahan as his fiery yet devoted wife. All that doubling – men and women, past and present, nature and civilization – doesn't preclude loneliness; far from it.

As Helen says, with unconscious irony, it's so easy to say the wrong thing. The question hanging in the air like gunsmoke is whether saying the wrong thing is better or worse than doing the wrong thing: ending friendships, failing lovers, or going to war and getting oneself killed.

Event phone: 020 7359 4404
Event website: http://www.almeida.co.uk

Average User Rating

3.8 / 5

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LiveReviews|4
1 person listening
Mike

Thoughtful, thought-provoking, lyrical, tragic and beautiful. Everyone I was with loved it. The male lead is particularly brilliant.

JB

Excellent play and acting. Deeply moving story about loss, love, friendship, art and war.

B. Wayne

Some half decent acting can rescue a dire script, with barely one dimensional characters that it's impossible to care about. I took my wife who's very interested in both Thomas and Frost and she was lucky enough to fall asleep during the turgid first half. I hoped it would get better after the interval: it got worse.