Oh! What a Lovely War
8th October 2014
Leeds City Museum
Type of Production
Carolyn Craven (Movement)
Author: Christine Castle
I was delighted to be invited to review this production, covering for my colleague, Margeurite Jennings, especially for such a different theatrical experience.
Cosmopolitan Players should give themselves a huge pat on the back for presenting this landmark musical play, which originated at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, under the wing of the amazing artistic and forward-thinking director, Joan Littlewood.
In this centenary year of the beginning of the Great War, we have been literally bombarded with documentaries and dramas showing the sheer horror and waste of an entire generation of ordinary men who made the ultimate sacrifice. This production gave us yet a further insight into those dreadful times. The Leeds City Museum's open space had been transformed into almost a circus ring, the players entering as the 'Merry Roosters' dressed in black and white Pierrot costumes - the narrator, played admirably by Bryan Craven, guided us through the performance, whilst the energetic cast added bits of costume and props to point out the futility of war whilst at the same time, bringing out the humour that probably got the soldiers through the bad times. Large screens displayed real photos from the era, and a running display gave us those all-too-familiar battle dates and casualty figures. Cosmopolitan Players easily took on the challenge of a musical performance, with some well-sung vocals and they all kept in character throughout. This is no mean feat when the audience is so close to the playing area! Carolyn Craven is to be congratulated on steering her cast through a complicated piece of theatre and kept up the momentum to the very end. Danny Gamble guided a talented band through it all and had done a very good job on the vocal side, well done to everyone for that. The Props and Costume departments worked magnificently from specially organised areas behind the audience. Sound and Lighting were in the very capable hands of Tech 24, Adam Moore and Ian Thomson. I imagine that Jan Morrell, Stage Manager, had many a sleepless night wondering how it would all pan out - it did, extremely well!
I was particularly impressed with some company members presenting appropriate readings and poems before the start of the show - it set the mood and it was good to see community theatre work so well.
I know this has not been the easiest of productions to mount, but I can assure the company that the audience left the Museum knowing they had seen something very special - I do hope we see more of this type of so-called 'pop-up' theatre in the future.