First Finborough Theatre production to be shown online for free

When twenty year old Charles Sorley is killed in action during the First World War, his devastated parents are left with only his letters and poems to remember him by. Using his extraordinary writings, together with music and songs of the period, It Is Easy To Be Dead is a tender portrait of a brief life filled with promise, cut short by the futility of war.

 Charles Sorley was a witty, intelligent and spirited young man from Aberdeen, with a talent for poetry and dreams of escaping his privileged background. Studying in Germany in 1914 – where he was briefly imprisoned as an enemy alien – his life, like those of millions of other young men and their families, was ripped apart by the start of the First World War.

Inspired by his experiences in Germany and of the horror and pity of war, he created some of the most profound and moving war poetry ever written, directly inspiring the grim disillusionment of later poets such as Wilfred Owen, Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon.

It Is Easy To Be Dead features live music and songs from some of the greatest composers of the period including George Butterworth, Dòmhnall Ruadh Chorùna, Ivor Gurney, John Ireland, Rudi Stephan and Ralph Vaughan Williams.

The cast includes Jenny Lee (West End, Royal Court Theatre, The Young Vic, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh), Tom Marshall (National Theatre, West End, Royal Court Theatre, nominated for an OffWestEnd Award for Best Male Performance in a Supporting Role for It Is Easy To Be Dead) and two new discoveries – actor Alexander Knox as Charles Sorley, nominated for an OffWestEnd Award for Best Male Performance for It Is Easy To Be Dead; acclaimed young tenor Hugh Benson; and prize-winning pianist Elizabeth Rossiter.

Artistic Director Neil McPherson said: “We are very pleased to make the first of what we hope will be many Finborough Theatre productions available online. The process of clearing rights and permissions for streaming recordings of past shows (assuming, of course, that they were recorded in the first place) is always difficult, and we are especially grateful to the company and creative team of Easy for generously allowing us to make this video available to watch for free.

During our closure, we continue with our two playwriting competitions – the winner of the 2020 RADIUS Playwriting Competition will be announced soon, and we have extended the deadline and increased the prizes for the ETPEP Playwriting Competition for new writers who work in theatre. We continue to celebrate our 40th anniversary by updating our online production archive on our new website, and are regularly posting reviews and images from the last 40 years across all our social media channels. We will be making more of our shows available online, and also hope to take our monthly Finborough Forum online shortly.

But, theatre is a live art form, and no amount of streaming, competitions or Zoom chats can replace that, so we are also using this time to rethink what we do, so that we can come back stronger when we finally reopen.

Sadly, we fall between the cracks of government and local authority support, so if you would like to support us to ensure another 40 years of our work, we would of course be hugely grateful for any donation you can afford to make.”


Press acclaim for the Finborough Theatre production of It Is Easy To Be Dead

★★★★★ The Guardian
★★★★★ Broadway World
★★★★★ London Pub Theatres
★★★★★ The Upcoming
★★★★★ Carn’s Theatre Passion
★★★★ and Pick of The Week, The Sunday Times
★★★★ The Times
★★★★ The Herald
★★★★ Time Out
★★★★ WhatsOnStage
★★★★ The Jewish Chronicle
★★★★ Musical Theatre Review
★★★★ Reviewsgate
★★★★ LondonTheatre1
★★★★ LiveTheatre
★★★★ Ginger Wig and Strolling Man
★★★★ TheSpyintheStalls

Nominated for an Olivier Award

Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre

Nominated for a MyTheatreAward

Best Original Work

Nominated for 7 OffWestEnd Awards

Best Male Performance

Best Male Performance in a Supporting Role

Best New Play

Best Director

Best Lighting Designer

Best Sound Designer

Best Set Designer

Nominated for four Broadway World UK Awards

Best Actor in a New Production of a Musical

Best Direction of a New Production of a Play

Best New London Fringe Production

Best New Play

“A century on, it’s easy to tell ourselves that we’ve heard enough from the trenches. This artful evening reminds us that there is always more to learn, to be appalled by and, yes, dazzled by too.” Dominic Maxwell, The Times

“A fitting and poignant tribute.” Theo Bosanquet, Time Out

“A sharp reminder of the fragility of peace and the terrible consequences of taking that state for granted.” Gary Naylor, Broadway World

“A poignant moving narrative of one man’s war. What Charles Sorley achieved in his short life should remain an inspiration to us all. Not to be missed.”

“This beautiful tribute to the First World War poet Charles Sorley took me by surprise. After all, I had — I’ll confess — never heard of Sorley, a poet celebrated by his peers if not by a huge wider public, who died aged 20 in 1915 in the Battle of Loos. And the prospect of a show made up of his letters and poems, with British and German songs from the period and dramatisations of his stiff Scottish parents’ reactions to his death . . . it sounded more National Trust than National Theatre. Yet It is Easy to be Dead turns out to be a tender, absorbing, eye-opening account of both an awful conflict and a great lost talent.” Dominic Maxwell, The Times

“Hugely worthwhile piece, moving yet never mawkish, pertinent for its quiet reminder of the fragility of life, civilisation and peace.” Patricia Nicol, The Sunday Times

“Charles Sorley is not a First World War poet as familiar as Wilfred Owen or Rupert Brooke, whose works are ingrained on the national consciousness. But on the evidence of Neil McPherson’s fascinating dramatisation of his short life, he merits no less attention.” Theo Bosanquet, Time Out

“A haunting tribute to a remarkable forgotten war poet” Claire Allfree, The Daily Telegraph

“Quietly devastating.” Dominic Cavendish, The Daily Telegraph

“Well crafted, well staged, well acted.” Quentin Letts, The Daily Mail

“Powerful musical moments.” Dominic Maxwell, The Times

“Neil McPherson’s thoughtful play…conveys both the young man’s enthusiastic energy and the intensity of his parents’ loss.” Patricia Nicol, The Sunday Times

“Beautifully written…McPherson’s perfectly judged script…The cast are tremendous.” Gary Naylor, Broadway World

“Alexander Knox is stunning as Sorley, giving him the bonhomie of a young thing, the clear-sightedness of an old soul.” Dominic Maxwell, The Times

“Alexander Knox’s inquisitively engaging Charlie.” Patricia Nicol, The Sunday Times

“An excellent central performance: Alexander Knox honours Sorley with a deeply sympathetic portrayal, finely balancing passion and poise.” Theo Bosanquet, Time Out

“In Alexander Knox’s likeable, bright-eyed performance you get a palpable, painful inkling of what was lost.” Dominic Cavendish, The Daily Telegraph

“Tom Marshall and Jenny Lee as his parents are perfect.”

“Heartbreaking scenes as his parents, played by Jenny Lee and Tom Marshall.” Liz Dyer, Carn’s Theatre Passion

“Tom Marshall and Jenny Lee make wholly believable parents: he the epitome of the Calvanist tradition, stiff upper lip maintained – until he cracks; she the grieving mother, emotions just about held in check, but unable to cope with the void in her life.” Gary Naylor, Broadway World

“Hugh Benson sings beautifully.” Jessica Handscomb, A Younger Theatre

“Hugh Benson, wonderful.” Patricia Nicol, The Sunday Times

“The music, sung exquisitely by Hugh Benson and accompanied on piano by Elizabeth Rossiter, hauntingly underscores Sorley’s conviction in the beauty of German culture.” Claire Allfree, The Daily Telegraph

“Elizabeth Rossiter’s deft music direction, accompanied by Hugh Benson’s singing, appropriately combines British and German songs.” Theo Bosanquet, Time Out

“The director, Max Key, keeps the atmosphere vivid throughout.” Dominic Maxwell, The Times