UNICORNS, ALMOST is a new one–man play about the life and work of World War II poet Keith Douglas. John Retallack will direct the premiere in Hay-on-Wye in May 2018.
UNICORNS, ALMOST tells the life story of Keith Douglas from his childhood idolising an absent father, through four engagements to marry, his fighting in the Western desert as a tank commander, his accelerated education as a poet to his early death three days after the D-Day landings in Normandy at the age of just 24.
It is the story of one man’s Faustian pact with a war, which would both gift his unique and penetrating poetic voice, but then also take it away. It is also the story of Douglas’s desperate race to see his poems in the permanence of print before his limited time on earth runs out.
Written by Owen Sheers (The Passion, Mametz, Pink Mist) UNICORNS, ALMOST conjures Douglas back into confrontational existence before an audience. Echoing the frequent direct address of his poems, Douglas’s pressure to speak to us is twofold: a desire to remind us of the horrors of war and what it steals from us, and a frustration that despite having seen his poems into print they have remained, for the last 70 years, largely unread.
John Retallack directed Owen Sheers’s Pink Mist in Bristol and London and the national tour. Keith Douglas is played by Dan Krikler who was Arthur in Pink Mist. With design by Lucy Hall with immersive soundscapes by Jon Nicholls and lighting designer by Ben Pickersgill, the play plunges an audience into Douglas’s world and character, using the best of his poems as stepping stones through his life.
Widely recognised as the finest poet of World War Two, Ted Hughes championed Keith Douglas as an important influence and wrote the introduction to his Collected Poems (Faber & Faber). The script of UNICORNS, ALMOST is published by Faber Dram.
The world premiere of UNICORNS, ALMOST opened in Hay-on-Wye on 24 May 2018.