Lawrence of Arabia play confuses some critics

May 9, 2016 | By Garrett Montgomery More

A Lawrence of Arabia play is getting panned by critics. The play, which was put together by playwright Howard Brenton and starring Jack Laskey focuses on T. E. Lawrence’s return from Arabia in 1922. Reviewers are bashing it for being boring and even cliché.

Lawrence of Arabia play

A Lawrence of Arabia play called Lawrence after Arabia by Howard Brenton currently at the Hampstead Theatre in London, England is not getting the reviews it had hoped for. The play focuses on the life of Thomas Edward Lawrence, better known as T. E. Lawrence, a British archeologist, military officer, and diplomat whose incredible life story inspired the 1962 film entitled Lawrence of Arabia.

Lawrence earned the famous nickname Lawrence of Arabia thanks to his liaison role during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign and the Arab Revolt (1916–1918) against the ruling Ottoman Empire. Here are few interesting facts about Thomas Edward Lawrence.

At the age of 15, Lawrence and his schoolfriend, Cyril Beeson, took the decision to bicycle around Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, and Oxfordshire to explore all the churches so they could study their monuments and antiquities.

Lawrence was a polyglot, whose published work demonstrates competence in Ancient Greek, Arabic, and French. In 1909, he traveled through Syria and Palestine, alone to survey the castles of the Crusaders for his thesis. He walked nearly 1,000 miles and was shot at, robbed, and badly beaten. Here is more:

In 1914, the British military employed Lawrence on an archaeological expedition of the Sinai Peninsula and Negev Desert, a research trip that was actually a cover for a secret military survey of territory possessed by the Ottoman Turks. Once World War I began, Lawrence joined the British military as an intelligence officer in Cairo. He worked a desk job for nearly two years before being sent to Arabia in 1916 where, in spite of his nonexistent military training, he helped to lead battlefield expeditions and dangerous missions behind enemy lines during the two-year Arab Revolt against the Turks.

In 1918, he declined to be knighted by King George V. He became an international celebrity when the American war correspondent Lowell Thomas launched a 1919 lecture tour recounting his assignment in the Middle East. Lawrence worked for Winston Churchill and after World War I, he re-enlisted under assumed names.

There are no skies, no sand, and no horses in the play because Brenton set it at the Hertfordshire home of Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw and his wife, Charlotte Payne-Townshend where Lawrence is a regular visitor and where he relives the desert campaign in his mind. Reviewers applauded Brenton’s writing skills, but called the play dull.

A play expert wrote:

John Dove’s production is also a model of clarity and achieves the transitions from the village of Ayot St Lawrence to Arabia with great ease. But while I enjoyed Brenton’s attempt to unravel the mystery of TE Lawrence, I can’t say I was shocked into startling new awareness.”

In another piece, it was revealed:

“Yet Lawrence After Arabia never quite grips as it might. Perhaps that is because the actor who plays him, Jack Laskey, chooses to make him an unexciting figure. This may be truthful. It may have been how Lawrence was. Yet in terms of theatre it makes for a slender offering. This play is perfectly satisfactory in some ways. I sat through it without boredom and only once or twice (when some Arab gunmen prowl the stage, trying to look threatening) did it teeter close to stereotype.”

Lawrence after Arabia runs until June 4.


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