19 May 2016
Lines in the sand
As well as being a soldier and spy, T.E. Lawrence (1888-1935) was a literary figure – his book, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, long shaping European views of Arab culture – who rapidly became a dramatic character. At the start of the 1960s, he was played on stage by Alec Guinness in Terence Rattigan’s Ross (to be revived in Chichester this summer) and on screen by Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia.
The knowingly titled Lawrence after Arabia, the latest in a run of elegant and intelligent history plays that Howard Brenton has written late in his career, overlaps with the movie in scenes of Lawrence’s morally divided involvement in the Arab rebellion, and with the Rattigan play in focusing on the period when Lawrence responded to the experience of being one of the first victims of media celebrity by enlisting in the RAF under the name Ross.
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