Oh! What a Lovely War! November 2018
Joyce Pomeroy - Local Representative - NODA (National Operatic and Dramatic Association)
To stage a show as
expansive as this in a village hall could be considered ambitious. A band is required and the cast is large. The story spans the four years of the war and there are numerous changes of
scene. Careful thought and much planning of all aspects had been involved in preparing this production. A stage extension had been set to enlarge the playing area because the
band, very sensibly, was on stage left, visible to the audience but in no way imposing on the scene. The auditorium was utilised for some entrances, most notably when the two opposing
forces met and exchanged gifts and good wishes on Christmas Eve. Entrances and exits were smooth and each scene moved onto the next without pause. Above the proscenium arch ran details of
the casualties for each "push" showing the resulting horror of the decisions being made by General Haig and others. Back projection was used to chilling effect showing scenes from the
trenches. A very effective scene showed the gentry back in England busy with the grouse shoot, demonstrating how the carnage of the Great War barely affected the ruling classes. Then we
saw how the women encouraged the men to join up by giving white feathers. So much coercion was used, some subtle some overt and so many millions died. This was played in a low
key, undramatic way, which strengthened and brought truth to the play. There was a strong feeling of the actors being the character, rather than acting it, which drew the
audience into the story.
As is the custom the
actors were dressed as Pierrots with additional costume being added. This works so well, a combination of the entertainment of those times and the horror of war. Showing initially that
for many back home the war was a farp distant happening. At first in act one the pace was more relaxed and then as the number of casualties was reaching barely believable heights the
horror of the war affected everyone and the intensity of the performance increased. Then to see the soldiers in Pierrot costumes showed how a situation that would have been unacceptable before
had now become part of "everyday" existence.
The sound effects were
excellent, loud but in no way overly so, as artillery fire and other sounds of war interrupted life in the trenches. The lighting also was at all times fitting for the story.
This is described as a
musical entertainment and contains many wartime songs. There was some outstanding solo singing but also the group singing was of a high standard and being a drama company the meaning behind the
words was expressed so clearly. The Band was excellent and the balance of sound between singers and band was good.
To mention individuals is
unnecessary as i
n the words of Joan Littlewood "I do not believe in the supremacy of the director, designer,
actor or even the writer. It is through collaboration that this knockabout art of the theatre survives and kicks". But mention must be made of the
who looked to be of primary school age and at all times was completely in character, never allowing her attention to waver from the story and her part in
it. It is to be imagined that a bright and exciting future awaits her in the world of amateur theatre.
This production was most
impressive and much appreciated by the capacity audience. Congratulations to all who were involved in its success.