(Tim Auld’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 5/6.)
The action of Howard Brenton’s new play, kicks off in 1922. TE Lawrence’s days of derring-do during the First World War, fighting alongside the Arabs to defeat the Ottoman Empire, are long gone and the soldier-turned-writer is seeking anonymity as Private Ross in the RAF.
But for a man of Lawrence’s fame, anonymity is hard to come by, and a journalist is out to make capital from his secret new life. In his downtime from the RAF, Lawrence (Jack Laskey) takes sanctuary at the Hertfordshire home of George Bernard Shaw (Jeff Rawle) and his wife. This much is true enough.
The rest – which imagines conversations between Lawrence, Shaw and his wife, and flashbacks to Lawrence’s negotiations with the Arab resistance – is conjecture. What is certain is that Lawrence was an enigma: a driven man with a gift for the gab who longed to hide his light under a bushel, but couldn’t help stirring up controversy. As Bernard Shaw said of him, he was “forever backing into the limelight”.