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Unicorns, Almost review – poignant portrait of a tormented war poet


The Swan Hotel, Hay-on-Wye
Owen Sheers’ evocative one-hander paints a fascinating picture of Keith Douglas and places his breathtaking poetry centre-stage

Since playing Wilfred Owen in a 20th-anniversary revival of the 1982 fringe hit Not About Heroes, Owen Sheers– the polymath author of this resonant one-hander – has become a bit of a warrior hero himself, his poetry, fiction and plays spanning from the Somme to the war in Afghanistan. He now turns his attention to Keith Douglas, one of the few poets to emerge from the second world war, who was blown to pieces at the age of 24 when he stumbled into a tripwire in France days after surviving the 1944 Normandy landings.

Douglas’s first and only collection was published six years after his death, by which time nobody wanted war poetry. It took the championship of Ted Hughes to bring him back to life a decade later with a slim selection, followed in the late 1980s by the reissue of the Collected Works.

Related: Owen Sheers: an interview with contemporary literature’s renaissance man

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