Howard Brenton’s Lawrence After Arabia explores the afterlife of a legend, when being a hero has become a burden, and the man once celebrated as Lawrence of Arabia wants only to be normal once more.
August, 1922. The most famous man in England has vanished without a trace: T.E. Lawrence has completely disappeared. But in the idyllic calm of the village of Ayot St Lawrence, on the top floor of the home of Mr and Mrs Bernard Shaw, the ‘uncrowned King of Arabia’ is hiding – with slabs of homemade carrot cake for comfort.
Wearied by his romanticised persona and worldwide fame, disgusted with his country and himself, Lawrence is craving normality. But when you’re a brilliant archaeologist, scholar, linguist, writer and diplomat – as well as a legendary desert warrior – how can you ever be normal? And beyond the Shaws’ garden wall, nobody cares how he feels: England just wants its hero back. Can he ever return?
Howard Brenton’s Lawrence After Arabia, commissioned to mark the centenary of the start of the Arab revolt, finds Lawrence trapped in his love/hate relationship with the limelight, tormented by ghosts and haunted by broken promises.
It premiered at Hampstead Theatre, London, in 2016, directed by John Dove.
‘A quiet, but highly topical, masterpiece… clever and engaging… the skill of the play is that it doesn’t make you think; it lets you think’
‘Written with a rare and engaging affection for its participants… full of wonderful, zinging lines, and a sharp-eyed observation of the collision between Bohemian values and establishment rules. It’s a quiet reminder that recent history matters. I rather loved it’
‘Fascinating… it feels as if we have been given a magic window to see what really happened to Lawrence after Arabia’
— The Times