Press Release  


Finest poet of WWII to be celebrated in Edinburgh.

The life and poetry of Keith Douglas, widely recognised as the finest poet of World War II, is to be celebrated in Edinburgh ahead of the 80th anniversary of the start of WWII.

Unicorns, Almost – a play by Owen Sheers – is produced by The Story of Books and takes place at at Army @ The Fringe in association with Summerhall.

It portrays the short life of Keith Douglas, from his childhood and his four engagements through to his fighting in the Western desert, his accelerated education as a poet and his early death, three days after the Normandy D-Day landings.  It is the story of his Faustian pact with a war that would nurture his poetic voice before taking it away. It is also the story of his desperate race to see his poems in print. 

Unicorns, Almost is written by Welsh poet, playwright and novelist, Owen Sheers. Following successful runs in Hay-on-Wye and in Normandy (for the 75th anniversary of D-Day) The Story of Books brings both the live theatre show and the immersive audio experience to Army@TheFringe, with Dan Krikler as Keith Douglas.

“wonderful performance”

Margaret Atwood

Unicorns, Almost takes place at Hepburn House Army Reserve Centre at East Claremont Street in the New Town (Venue 210). The live performance takes place from 13-25 August. Before that it will be presented as an immersive audio experience from 2-11 August.

There is also an installation related to the playrunning throughout. 

With direction by John Retallack, sound design by Jon Nicholls, and lighting design by Ben Pickersgill, the set creates an immersive environment for a private audience with Douglas, speaking from beyond the grave. Keith Douglas was killed on 9 June 1944, three days after the Normandy Landings.

Keith Douglas’s work was championed by Ted Hughes at Faber & Faber, as an important influence on his own work. Hughes wrote the introduction to Douglas’s The Complete Poems, published by Faber. The prestigious independent publishing that celebrates its 90th anniversary this year also publishes the biography of Keith Douglas (by Desmond Graham), his memoirs, the play script of Unicorns, Almost and other titles by Owen Sheers. The play also references T.S. Eliot & Faber.

Each visitor will receive a letterpress printed poem sheet set and printed by hand by Incline Press in Albertus type, designed by Berthold Wolpe (known for his book cover designs for Faber & Faber) and used in the 1930s by the Ministry of Information. Camembert boxes from Normandy have been used to created overlapping circles printed in coloured ink.

Unicorns, Almost has been developed with blind and visually impaired (VI) young people. The ‘Blind Bookworms’ have been involved in each stage of the creative process and have given constructive criticism to make the show a rich experience for a blind and VI audience. Additional audio content, Braille material, and touch tours are part of the Unicorns, Almost experience.

Unicorns, Almost is produced by The Story of Books which aims to tell powerful stories in creative ways to unusual audiences.


Audio Experience & Installation:
Dates & Times: 2nd – 10th August at 13:15, 15:15 & 17:15. 11th August at 13:15 only
Tickets: £5

Live Show & Installation:
Dates & Times13th – 25th August (not 19th) at 13:15
Tickets: £8 (£6)

Duration: 60 minutes, followed by installation
Venue: Army@The Fringe, V210
Bookings: 0131 560 1581 |

More Info

Army@TheFringe is presented by Army Headquarters Scotland as a way of engaging with wider society through the arts and initiating discussion about soldiering. 

The venue, which runs from 2 to 25 August, is staffed by soldiers who run the bar and front of house services, and who mingle with the public before and after shows.

Army@TheFringe is at Hepburn House, East Claremont Street, Edinburgh.


A press preview recording of the full audio play is available here:

Written by: Owen Sheers
Directed by: John Retallack
Produced by: The Story of Books
With Dan Krikler as Keith Douglas
Sound design: Jon Nicholls
Lighting design: Ben Pickersgill 

Play script published by Faber & Faber


Emma Balch, The Story of Books
+44 7879 373431
Twitter: @doblemdesign

For further notes and more images, view the full press release

View Unicorns, Almost‘s show page on our website