English theatre company granted unprecedented permission to stage Hemingway epic 'A Farewell to Arms'


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The Independent Culture

A small theatre company has been granted unprecedented permission by Ernest Hemingway's literary estate to recreate the author’s semi-autobiographical World War One classic A Farewell to Arms.

It will be first time the book has ever been staged in the UK and the only occasion it has been performed since an ill-fated Broadway production in 1930.

It comes amid renewed interest in the writer’s extraordinary and ultimately tragic life, which is the subject of a Hollywood biopic being filmed in Cuba where he lived. 

Writer and director Andrew Quick of "Imitating the Dog", which is based in Lancaster, said lawyers representing the Hemingway family initially rejected his appeal to adapt the book for a British audience.

“They were clearly nervous with the movie coming out,” he said. “I don’t think anyone has touched it because it is so epic. There is a real contrast between a couple falling in love and these big, epic battles,” he added.

The novel, published in 1929, is based on Hemingway’s experiences as a volunteer Red Cross ambulance driver on the Italian front during the Great War during which he was seriously injured by a mortar shell.

It also recounts his falling in love with a British nurse – again mirroring a relationship he had whilst serving in the Alps.

Despite being one of the acknowledged masterpieces of 20th Century literature, Hemingway's work is likely to fall foul of changes to the English curriculum focusing on homegrown authors.

“I think he has been a bit unfashionable but people are getting really interested in him. He had this really intense macho life, drinking, hunting - and his relationships with women were quite complex. But people have gone back to his books and are finding something there that is much more complicated,” said Mr Quick.

The play, which is being co-produced by The Dukes, Lancaster, where it will premier in October, will then tour England and Italy.

The book was made into an Oscar nominated film in 1932 starring Gary Cooper and then remade in 1957 with Rock Hudson and Jennifer Jones in its cast. The 1932 version of the film has just been re-released by the BFI.