With the media being censored by the government during World War One, people back at home knew very little about the true horrors of being on the front line, so the likes of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon turned to poetry to express their feelings.
The pair went on to become prolific poets during the Great War and now Croxley Green student Stephen Smith, and his friends Duncan Riches and Matt Bromwich, are putting on a play, told through a series of letters of the soldiers friendship, to commemorate 100 years since the Battle of Somme.
Stephen MacDonald’s Not About Heroes is based on the friendship between Owen and Siegfried, who met during the war in a military hospital for officers suffering from shell shock, which we now know as post-traumatic stress.
Stephen, a 23-year-old student at Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, says: “It was me and Duncan who originally found the play as part of a module at the drama school we go to. We were put together as two of the characters – as Wilfred and Siegfried in the play and then we sort of fell in love with it.
“From there we thought let’s try and put it on – Matt got involved as the director and it just grew from that.
“We then did a performance on Remembrance Day last year in front of a war memorial at LIPA and it was a very special night. There was no dry eye in the audience and that spurred us on to tell the story and go on tour.”
The former Rickmansworth School pupil will be playing Wilfred Owen but explains that with regards to the Battle of Somme, it relates to Sassoon more as he actually served in it.
“He earned the nickname ‘Mad Jack’ because he would go out on his own to raid enemy trenches without fear and come back completely unscathed, which earned the respect of his fellow troops.
“It wasn’t because he wanted to serve King and country, it was because he was angry with the war and that the war was awful and horrible, and this was what led him to write the poetry he did.
“I think the Somme was a big influence on his writing and it probably inspired Wilfred Owen and many others to write war poetry.”
Stephen, along with Duncan and Matt set up Three Dumb Theatre to take the show on tour, which opens at All Saints Church Hall in Croxley next week.
“It is pure and simple as there are three of us and we’re very intelligent... we’re are just trying to make a go of it,” says the Stephen who has performed with both Cassio Productions and the Pump House Theatre in Watford, about the story behind the company name, “we are three young dumb actors”.
He adds: “I think having created it, we have started to think about what we can do after. It is kind of a blessing we found this play that we all love, which founded this theatre company – who knows where that will lead us.”
All Saints Church Hall, The Vicarage, The Green, Croxley Green, Saturday, July 16, 7.30pm. Details: threedumbtheatre.com.