Edinburgh Fringe Review - Verge of Strife

As one of the most famous war poets of his time, WW1 poet Rupert Brooke seems like an interesting subject for a play. However, despite touching upon several interesting themes, and showing Brooke's inner restlessness well, Verge of Strife seems somewhat directionless.

Photo Credit - Arsalan Sattari
The audience longs for a dramatic moment, but all such moments occur in between scenes and are merely discussed in passing before the play moves on. As such the plot saunters along without much clear sense of direction or urgency for most of its running time. 

The story also relies on its audience having a fairly in depth prior knowledge of not only Brooke's life and works, but also the lives of his friends, lovers, and other prominent societal figures at the time, and those who are not equipped with this may find themselves getting lost rather quickly. Especially because the play is structured so choppily. Admittedly the fast paced scene changes facilitated by just a snappy lighting change or prop rearrangement, do make for some admirably slick storytelling. But there are altogether too many scenes of Brooke pontificating in front of swooning admirers, and not enough exploration of his inner workings or the inspirations for his famous works. Nor is enough time spent exploring Brooke's transition from breezy young man to hardened naval sub-lieutenant. In fact, for a play about a famous war poet, very minimal scenes are dedicated to showing Brooke's actually experiencing war itself. 

However, with a wild glimmer in his eyes, and a easy swagger to his step, Jonny Labey makes the most of Brooke's vulnerable moments, and is subsequently excellent as the tumultuous poet, especially when he shares scenes with Emma Barkley who plays Brooke's earnest lover Ka Cox. 

Production designer Emeline Beroud's work is also more than just serviceable. The simplistic, summer-y set is wonderfully archaic, and compliments the production's undeniable overall finesse.

Verge of Strife is an elegantly designed production with a strong cast . Unfortunately though, despite beautifully incorporating Brooke's works into the script, the who things seems a bit underpowered and the choppy scenes and unceremonious ending leave the audience feeling deflated.