Verge of Strife review at Assembly George Square, Edinburgh – ‘dramatically flat’
Based on the letters and poems of Rupert Brooke, Verge of Strife is a solid biographical piece about the poet’s life and work. It does all the things you’d expect a fringe theatre show about Rupert Brooke to do. There are snatches of his verse, elegantly delivered, and the cast spend a lot of time discussing Apollo and sodomy while wearing lovely waistcoats. Somebody intones Dulce et Decorum Est in a sombre voice.
But handsome as it is, Quentin Beroud’s production is lacking in surprise or dramatic propulsion. The characters spend a lot of time discussing Ottoline Morrell, the Cambridge Apostles and the Strachey family and its various ‘perversions’, but it never ignites as a piece of theatre.
Jonny Labey is suitably dashing and tousle-haired as the gleaming, charismatic young poet, but he doesn’t really convey his mix of arrogance, talent and sexual complexity. He never gets under his skin. We keep being told of his genius and magnetism without really feeling it.
Nick Baldock’s play is serviceable and clearly well-researched but uncourageous in form. The piece is lifted by some degree by the strength of its supporting performances, particularly Sam Warren as Brooke’s publisher Eddie Marsh and Emma Barclay as Ka Cox, one of Brooke’s closest friends, and sometime paramour.