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Not About Heroes is a drama by Stephen MacDonald about the real-life relationship between the poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon first performed at the Edinburgh Festival in 1982.

The play has only two characters: Owen and Sassoon. The story of their friendship is told in a series of flashbacks, narrated by Sassoon who survived World War I (in which Owen was killed). Most of the scenes take place during their time as fellow-patients at Craiglockhart War Hospitalmarker near Edinburghmarker in 1917.

The title is a quotation from the preface Wilfred Owen wrote in preparation for the publication of his collected poems:

"This book is not about heroes. English poetry is not yet fit to speak of them. Nor is it about deeds, or lands, nor anything about glory, honour, might, majesty, dominion, or power, except War. Above all I am not concerned with Poetry. My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity."

Past Productions

Not About Heroes had its première at the Edinburgh Festival in 1982 and won a Fringe First award. It toured and came to the King's Head, was adapted for Yorkshire TV and BBC Radio 4, and was published by Faber and Faber, all in 1983. A new production at the Royal National Theatremarker in 1986 celebrated the centenary of Sassoon's birth. A national tour took place the following year with Paul Shelley as Siegfried Sassoon and Stephen McGann as Wilfred Owen. In 1992, the author directed a revised text for the Citizen's, Glasgowmarker - a production which afterwards was seen in Shrewsburymarker as part of the celebrations marking the centenary of Owen's birth.

A production by Dianne Wiest at the Williamstown Theatre Fesival transferred to New Yorkmarker in 1985. Edward Herrmann and Dylan Baker both won OBIE awards. The 1987 Stratford Ontario production, with Nicholas Pennell and Henry Czerny, was revived the following year.

Notable productions of Not About Heroes in recent years have included a version mounted for the 2002 Hay-on-Wyemarker literary festival, starring Roger Moss and Owen Sheers. It was directed by Cathy Gill and produced by the novelist, Louis de Bernières. The following year, Peter Dickson and Andrew Butterworth starred in a well-received production at the Crescent Theatremarker, Birminghammarker. In 2005 MADHouse Productions staged a stiking version in the intimate surroundings of the Barons Court Theatremarker in west London. RGP Productions produced the play successfully in Sydneymarker followed by a season at the Australian War Memorialmarker in Canberramarker in 2007 starring Roger Gimblett asSassoon and Patrick Magee as Owen with direction by Carla Moore.

Not About Heroes was also performed in stunning fashion in the early 1990s at The Round House Theatre in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC.

In October/November 2008, Rowan Tree Theatre Co. in the Scottish Borders, mounted a production of the play to mark the 90th anniversary of the end of the Great War and in celebration of the company's twenty first birthday. One performance was given in Craiglockhart Hospitalmarker, the site of the actual meeting of the two poets. Sassoon was played by Oliver Bisset, and Owen by Matthew Burgess. The play was directed by John Haswell and produced by Judy Steel, wife of Lord Steel, the Liberal politician.



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