Set amidst the turbulent lives of a group of young Romantic poets, Bloody Poetry is one of Harold Brenton’s most lyrical plays. Director Rebecca Morahan tells us why we should see this moving, funny and poignant production.

1) It really happened
Bloody Poetry tells the story of the Romantic poets Percy Bysshe Shelley and Byron, the young Mary Shelley and her step-sister Claire Clairmont, and the time they spent in exile in Switzerland and Italy from 1816-1822. Entirely based on real events, the play vividly evokes the relationships between these young writers and the ideas which inspired their work.

2) It is about the importance and the difficulty of idealism
Percy Bysshe Shelley believed in the importance of hope as a force which releases the power of the imagination and permits society to progress. In practice, his idealism was severely tested by the ghosts of his past and the real and bloody events in his personal life and world around him. Bloody Poetry is a moving account of the tension that exists within all of us between our imaginations and our physical selves, between our dreams and the limits, often self-imposed, within which we live.

3) It has Byron in it
Need we say more? The original Romantic hero, it is said that without Byron there would have been no Heathcliff or Mr. Darcy. Believed at the time to be the greatest living English poet, his distinctive voice is brilliantly captured in Brenton’s writing.

4) It brings the poetry to life
Shelley was 29 when he drowned off the coast of Spezia in Northwest Italy. During his short and intense life, he wrote some of the most lyrical poems in the English language. Condemned for his practice of free love and revolutionary ideals, and with only 50 readers (by his own estimation) at the time of his death, his work has gone on to inspire writers and political activists of subsequent generations. Bloody Poetry sets Shelley’s, Byron’s and Mary Shelley’s writing in a personal and historical context and invites us to return to their work with fresh eyes or discover it for the first time.

5) It’s a fresh new production of a classic play
Staged to critical acclaim in London and New York in 1984, and subsequently revived at the Royal Court in 1988, Bloody Poetry is one of the best loved plays by Brenton, one of Britain’s foremost playwrights. Written partly in response to the climate under Thatcher’s Britain, the personal and political themes of the play are today as relevant as ever. This production, marking the play’s 25th anniversary, offers the chance to discover this witty, at times searingly painful, sexy and lyrical play. It is performed by a company of six young actors who brilliantly capture the youth, energy and complexity of its characters, at once convincingly of the period, and completely fresh and modern.

Bloody Poetry is at the White Bear Theatre in Kennington until 31 October. For more info, click here.