Interview - Quentin Beroud (Director of Verge of Strife (at the Edinburgh Fringe 2016))

Coming to the Edinburgh Fringe this summer, Nick Baldock's Verge of Strife is a critically acclaimed play, which tells the story of World War I poet Rupert Brooke, a man known as 'the voice of England.' 
Based on his letters and told through his poetry, Verge of Strife goes back to Brooke’s early years, looking at the young poet who embraced Socialism, atheism and the counterculture of Edwardian England. Described as ‘the handsomest man in all of England’ his looks, charm and wit left a trail of bruised egos and broken hearts right to the upper echelons of British society. 
Check out my interview with director Quentin Beroud Verge of Strife, and find out why it should be on your festival watch list!
Jonny Labey as Rupert Brooke
What is it about Rupert Brooke that makes him the ideal topic for a play?
Rupert Brooke was always the leading man in his lifetime, so it seems only right to put him back centre stage. He was a man constantly surrounded; by admirers, rivals, teachers and soldiers. In Verge of Strife these are played by an ensemble that swirl around our protagonist, telling his story through those that knew him best, and those that wanted to know him better. In his time he was a celebrity, never far from a gossiping tongue, and the combination of his tempestuous private life and the power of his poetry makes for an amazing combination. Also, it doesn't hurt that he was "the handsomest young man in England".

Brooke's WW1 poetry is hugely evocative. How is his work incorporated in the production?
The play is in the form of fragments of Brooke's life, and gradually each episode gives us more and more of a picture of him. Each of these episodes is introduced and inspired by a poem, so that they are both part of and outside the narrative. The poems give us flashes of Brooke the artist, and over the course of the play we understand more and more how these relate to Brooke the man.

The creative team gained access to Brooke's poems and private archived letters. How did these documents help to inform the production? 
Brooke lived an extraordinary life, and his letters and poems, from an early age, give us an incredible insight into his side of the story - how he coped with the attention (and there was a lot of attention), his sensitivity and the way he interacted with those that surrounded him. One thing that strikes you, particularly with his letters, is that he was always playing a part, always aware of his audience. Ironically enough, now that we're putting his story in front of an actual audience (something I think he would have rather liked) we've had to cut through this performativity and read between the lines of the archive material today to delve into the man beneath.

Why should Fringe audiences come and see Verge of Strife?
In the incredible story of an extraordinary man, told in an innovative way. Jonny Labey is brilliant as Brooke - leading a fantastic diverse ensemble of actors. 

What are the plans for this production of Verge of Strife post-Edinburgh?
Brooke’s poems were the people’s voice during the war and we feel that this show and his story also belongs to the people. I’d like to see us tour the show. With the style and structure that we have developed, It felt right to premiere the show at the Fringe. Our producing team are confident and hard at work, but obviously at this stage we can’t confirm any details. 

You can catch Verge of Strife at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer, at the Assembly George Square (Studio Two), Edinburgh, EH8 9LH from Thursday 4th until Monday 29th August 2016.