Distinctive amateur drama
in Northampton since 1932
Registered Charity No. 294848
Oh! What a Lovely War
by Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop
Cast & Crew
Director Ursula Wright
Musical director Kay Warcaba
Choreographer Jo Nutt
Production Assistant Alex Rex
Stage Manager Clare Brittain
Lighting design Richard Walker
Sound Effects Martin Borley-Cox
Photographs are the original slides by John Bury by arrangement with Elizabeth Lomas
Pierrot costumes designed and made by Dorothy Granger
Additional items Alison Dunmore, Greta Hendy and The Works
A scene from Oh What a Lovely War
Production No. 356
Ursula Wright, director
Is it a play? Is it a film? Is it a musical? Is it an end-of-the pier Edwardian entertainment? Or a ‘60s satire? Is it agit-prop, or physical theatre? Documentary drama? Music Hall? Living newspaper? A nostalgic peep into the past or an angry critique of the present?
Oh What A Lovely War is to some extent all of these, but the whole is much more than the sum of its parts.
This landmark in British theatre, first devised and performed by Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop in the East End of London, blew away some of the pre-existing ideas of what constituted “theatre” in this country and introduced audiences to a new and radical form of drama, collectively constructed, topical and profound in its impact.
Oh What A Lovely War has been described as “a Trojan Horse through which a set of critical attitudes and a European theatrical methodology capable of sustaining a critique of issues and events was smuggled into the cosily conservative world of British theatre.” (Paget, 1990).
Its technique of short, comic scenes, interspersed with the popular songs of the time, played against a photographic backdrop of the realities of trench warfare and the accumulating statistics of lost lives, still has the power to amuse, disturb and move audiences today.
As we approach the 90th anniversary of the end of the “Great War to end all wars” and the last surviving British veteran of the Western Front, 109 year-old Harry Patch pays tribute to the countless millions who lost their lives on both sides, the daily news bulletins bring new images and statistics from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Theatre Workshop’s testament to the resilience, humour and courage of the ordinary soldier and its indictment of the politicians and profiteers who exploit them remains as powerful and poignant as ever.
The setting for our production is appropriately the Crusader Round at Holy Sepulchre, which is known as The Soldiers’ Church.
11 - 15 December 2007 at 7.30pm
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Sheep Street, Northampton
Page last updated: 18/03/2013 Masque Theatre © 2013
Oh What a Lovely War is a difficult show to pull off successfully. It demands that there are no stars either off stage or on; actors must concentrate throughout, entering and exiting as different characters with different costumes; stage staff must be on their toes with dozens of scene/prop/lighting/sound/slide cues, while the band plays for the majority of the time.
It is a genuine tribute to the sheer professionalism and team work of the cast and crew that this production succeeded so magnificently. Led by the totally unflappable Ursula Wright everything appeared to glide along serenely, and even though there might have been paddling going on beneath the surface nobody in the audience was ever aware.
I was able to see all six performances and I observed that for every one of them the audience was held throughout – even the gang of pressed men from some school or other on the first night.
Apart from the ensemble work that I have already mentioned let me list the things that impressed me most about this impressive production.
Firstly the singing – everyone sang with utter confidence, in tune, with superb communication skill, and together! – musical director, Kay Warcaba must take the credit for at least some of that.
Secondly, the characterisations; without exception each of the actors, whenever they came on created a believable character within a couple of seconds.
Lastly the stage and technical crew ably led by Claire Brittain and Richard Walker, ensured that everything worked like well-oiled clockwork. And my excuse? I was just obeying orders.