Oh What a Lovely War
29th November 2018
Lympstone Village Hall
Type of Production
Play with music
Author: Joyce Pomeroy
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 used 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 far 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 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 relevant to the story.
This is described as 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 in 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 young girl, 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.