Oh, What a Lovely War”

Date 31st October 2012
Society Hitchin Thespians
Venue Queen Mother Theatre, Hitchin
Type of Production Musical
Director Linda Dyne
Musical Director MD: Charlie Wakely


Author: Nova Horley

Oh, What a Lovely War is essentially an ensemble piece, that relies heavily on the cast adapting to many different characters, which I thought they accomplished well. The set was very minimal – but it worked well as the cast could move round it well and with the use of boxes to signify and define certain areas the production maintained a flow and there was no necessity for lengthy scene changes. The band under the instruction of Charlie Wakely sounded fine – it was placed offstage which was good, as it did not obstruct vision of performance or space. Mostly the sound balance was acceptable, but inevitably there were couple of underscores that were a little too loud. The sound effects were sometimes rather timid – and the battery of guns sounded more like wooden clackers – it needed a good artillery barrage to give it more depth and reality. Lighting was mostly good – there were a few late changes, which meant that more than once a character giving important information was unlit. However the effects used were good. The use of the smoke machine to signify gas in the trenches created a good effect, as it seemed to hang in the air, and was very atmospheric. I could see that the cast had really got under the skin of the awfulness of WW1, and the terrible waste of life. The news bites on the screen were very telling. The crowd scenes were very lively, with plenty of expression from the ensemble, and some interesting choreography. I thought the quick changes both costume and accent were achieved very well – this was mostly the men – they had to be really on the ball to accomplish the changes. I was particularly impressed with Michael Niles, who seemed to cover more and different types of character than anyone else – and they were all done with care and attention to detail. I loved Gina Abbatt – she delivered two very different songs with excellent expression and rich tone – Kybosh on the Kaiser and Keep the Home Fires Burning- the former being very up front and full of vivacity, whilst the latter was reflective and poignant. Very well done. Another person who made an impact was Kier Home, a lovely tenor voice, that had a lot of expression. Nicola Niles was another cast member who sang several different types of songs, all with assurance and characterisation. Nicely done. There were some lovely harmonies going on – which really enhanced the music. I liked the hymn singing section, with the men singing different words, whilst two ladies sang the proper words. I thought the bayonet practice was great fun – the contrast of the trained professional sergeant against the motley crew of enlisted men – which I am sure was how it was – and the parody only served to underline the disparity between the two factions. The washing line scene was very funny, and accomplished very well by the two ladies. I thought the finale was extremely well-handled, the final song and the gradual dispersing of the ensemble – with the Chairman scattering the poppy petals and just leaving one soldier (who I understand was a present day Territorial) on stage with the date on screen – that really brought it all home, and proved to be a very poignant ending. I liked the pace and contrasts of the production, which created some good portrayals, and an insight into WW1. A good overall production.