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The Pen and the Sword

Artists played a pivotal role in WWI by showing the true horror of the front lines to the world.

The words of poets who fought in The Great War will come to life on stage in a revised production of local director Tony Rive’s The Pen and the Sword: Words in War.

Rive sourced poems from some of the most well known poets of the time, and others who fought in different countries or in different circumstances. They are presented in chronological order to illustrate the change in the social conscience about the war over time.

“The poems start off ‘hooray for war’, then turn to ‘this isn’t so good’ and then ‘this is terrible’ and then the post war looking back,” he says.

“It’s showing a bit of pro war and anti war. I don’t want to make a judgement. I want the audience to make a judgement about it.

“I think that’s the power of art – it’s not powerful enough to stop a war – but it can get people talking.”

Many of the poets met their fate during the war – some died in heroic ways, others under the horrific circumstances. Wilfred Owen, who features heavily in Rive’s play, was killed in action one week before the war ended.

“One poet spoke of the glory of war and then died from a mosquito bite. Another had an obituary written about him and then died 70 years later,” Rive says.

Rive says many of the poets explored the different sentiments of such a senseless conflict, and felt it was necessary to show the world the conditions faced by soldiers.

“WWI was a lot different to WWII because the bad guys were very clear in WWII,” he says.

“A lot of the poetry wasn’t ‘those are the bad guys, let’s get them’. There was a lot more empathy for the opposition.

“Wilfred was sent home because of shell shock, but then took a second tour to tell people what was really happening – these people sacrificed themselves to let others know what they were going through.”

Tue 5 (Preview) – Sat 9 Jun | 7PM | Brown's Mart Theatre | See the event listing

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