The Dark Earth and the Light Sky
The enigmatic story of tormented British writer and poet, Edward Thomas, is given a new lease of life in this powerful and emotive play by Nick Dear, which premiered in November 2012 at the Almeida Theatre, London.
Effortlessly weaving into the narrative the important primary evidence written by and to those who knew and loved Edward Thomas best, this book charts the literary and personal challenges which faced this struggling and self-effacing writer, while living in the shadow of the expectations which pervaded notions of masculinity in the prelude to, and during, World War I. It becomes extremely clear that the personal dichotomy he faced in finding his place in British society and making peace with himself was all too apparent to him and his wife, Helen, from the moment he met the aspiring poet, Robert Frost. While Frost went on to (publicly) be declared and loved as a poet of the American people, a very different fate awaited Edward Thomas.
Although this book is written as a play, it is such an easy read that one becomes absorbed in the story and the structure of the narrative is barely a noticeable feature at all. It would be a great pity for a story which highlights such problematic facets of changing life and duty to both oneself and one’s country in the early 20th century to be ignored by readers purely on the grounds of narrative format. Whether familiar or unfamiliar with reading, rather than watching, plays, if you are a fan of World War I, biography or literary perspectives on masters of the written word, then I encourage you to read Nick Dear’s work.