The Neu! Reekie! folks are at it again, this time in the co-production of the play, It Is Easy To Be Dead, bringing Charles Hamilton Sorley back to his home to Aberdeen, namely The Tivoli Theatre. Working with Bréon Rydell, Michael Pedersen will give a taster tonight at the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh with guest performer songstress Rachel Sermanni lulling the audience into a haunting atmos, offering an entertaining event.
Both Bréon (BR) and Michael (MP) spoke with The Fountain about how this production came about and what inspired the collaboration.
TF: You have co-produced a play, which combines theatre with poetry, what can we expect from It Is Easy To Be Dead?
MP: Co-produce is a generous theatre term, we’re in association really, which means we’re championing the play and the poet behind it (Charles Hamilton Sorley) and the main producer / marvel maker behind that – one Bréon Rydell. I’ve seen the play IIETBD at the cozy Finsborugh Theatre in London and then again on its second outing at the revered Trafalgar Studios. It was captivating, mesmerizing, enchanting, heartbreaking and beautiful in one poetic whirl. When Bréon mentioned it was time to bring Charles Hamilton Sorley home to Scotland we were atop a mountain in Italy. I didn’t miss a beat. The play has earned five stars reviews from The Guardian and an Olivier Award nomination – that’s no small fete. With the life and works of, Aberdeenshire born, World War 1 poet Charles Hamilton Sorley at the yolk of it, it was ripe for a Neu! Reekie! shaped affiliation.
BR: It’s great to have Neu! Reekie! as associates. I admire very much their achievements and have been happy to be involved with them from the outset. Michael is a very dear and close friend… It Is Easy To Be Dead, written by Neil McPherson, is a historical drama that is both inspiring and heart-breaking. It tells the story of the poet’s life through his letters and poetry with music and songs from some of the greatest composers of the period. It is a powerful and evocative play set against the backdrop of Germany just before the outbreak of World War 1 and recounts the experiences of young Charles Hamilton Sorley, who fell in love with Germany and its culture during a gap year. He nearly left school early to become a social worker; he was an outsider; and, crucially and intuitively, understood the horror and pity of war long before anyone else.
TF: Where did the influences come from with this play?
BR: The title of the play is taken from Sorley’s last poem, written shortly before his death and found in his military kit. In this poem, he expresses his feelings about the stark reality of death and the futility of weeping for the fallen soldiers. As he explains: “these ghosts are but shadows of the men they once were; our tears and words mean nothing to them.”
“Give them not praise. For deaf, how should they know. Is it not curses heaped on each gashed head? Nor tears. Their blind eyes see not your tears flow. Nor honour. It is easy to be dead.”
The timing and synergy of minds feel right to bring Sorley’s poems as well as his letters, to a new generation of young minds, to celebrate his life and bring him home to Scotland.
TF: And what is your connection to Bréon Rydell, have you worked with him previously?
MP: Bréon has been a dear dear friend of mine for ten years – part mentor, part collaborator, part something bigger. He’s an artist, composer, writer and cult international mystery worth exploring the world with. He’s been a supporter of Neu! Reekie! and a huge champion of my poetry before the first verse even landed on his lap back in 2007. There’s a corpus and cuddle more to this story but I’ll leave it there for noo.
TF: Rachel Sermanni is performing tonight at the SPL with you, is she involved in the production also?
MP: Rachel is our guest performer – a favourite voice and songwriter of Neu! Reekie!’s and hauntingly poetic. As an offering that clangs with contemporary relevance she was a great summons to the night. But, no, she’s not directly attached to the production. The last time I saw Bréon we were blasting Rachel’s music down the valley from Cascarone over to the ancient hilltop time of Montone. It will be something momentous to be swept up by her thigether at in the salubrious Scottish Poetry Library.
TF: I look forward to the production, when and where can we look forward to witnessing the production live?
Tonight Bréon and Neu! Reekie! present poetry, music and a taste of It Is Easy To Be Dead at the Scottish Poetry Library, Edinburgh from 5pm