Not About Heroes

Not About Heroes was put on by The Oxford Playhouse Company. It started in Oxford on 13th January 1987 and played to audiences in Taunton, Harlow, Hayes and Poole.

There are only two characters in the play - Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon - and the play tells of the friendship between these two men, who met at Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh in 1917.

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory

The old lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori*

Wilfred Owen

*It is sweet and glorious to die for one's country


Wilfred Owen...........Stephen McGann

Siegfried Sassoon............Paul Shelley

Not About Heroes

Not About Heroes is a play about the friendship of two complex and reticent men, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen.

It was written by Stephen MacDonald, but although he invented the conversations, they were based on themes written about in Owen's letters and Sassoon's memoirs.

It shows the strangely fruitful encounter between Sassoon, war hero and aristocrat, obsessed with exposing every sham ideal used to justify war and Owen, recovering from the effects of shell-shock, looking desperately for a hero who was not immune to the pity of war.

Wilfred Owen went back to the front and was subsequently killed in action just one week before the war ended, on 4th November 1918. Only five of his poems had been published at this time, but after his death Sassoon arranged for the publication of his 'Collected Poems' in 1920.

Stephen as Wilfred Owen

Oxford 1987

Additional comment

This was the first theatre production I ever saw Stephen in - and it was vastly different to 'Help!', which was being shown on television at this time. This was a very serious, emotive play which inspired my love of war poetry - something that years of grammar school education had failed to achieve, even though 'war poetry' was one of our core English Literature subjects!

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