Oh What a Lovely War
Southwark Playhouse
21st Nov to 9th Dec 2023

“Wildly satirical, visually stunning, and deeply moving, the show is a hilarious, heart-breaking snapshot of life for those caught in the crossfire of conflict, a unanimous voice from the trenches and a timely warning from the theatre of war itself. Now, more than ever, it holds a mirror up to the world and speaks to us all.

Conceived and developed by Joan Littlewood and her Theatre Workshop in 1963, Oh What a Lovely War remains a classic of modern theatre, a fusion of timeless songs – including Pack Up Your Troubles and It’s a Long Way to Tipperary – razor-sharp satire and high jinks, offering a satirical account of the First World War as seen through the eyes of the common soldier.”

Review by Richard Lambert, 5 Stars

Even before the show starts you sense there’s a lot of energy in this production. That energy didn’t stop for one second throughout the evening. One of the characters (Euan Wilson) comes to the bar in costume and guides you on his pedal scooter into the theatre. The Set design is a wooden stage set, similar to what you’d see for a travelling troupe of war-time performers, and there are festoon lights and many instruments around.

The musical arrangements are great and there are a lot of well-known songs in this musical. All six performers sing, dance, act and play multiple instruments to a very high standard. It’s a long show at 2 hours plus interval but it doesn’t feel like a long show at all.

With a lighting system that’s very retro, including footlights hidden nicely behind scallop shells, there are wooden crosses on the skyline and real integration of the choreographic staging into the show pulling it all together.

One might think that the inclusion of video projection to be so out of place that it jars. But even this has been done sensitively. The projected images appearing on the fabrics of the set design are of adverts that are of their time, and the messages that are typed across the wooden structure feel like a telegram message arriving on ticker tape.

Between the lighting and the projected messages relaying a sense of the macabre, the pointless waste of human life, decisions made by toffs that result in millions of deaths of the commoner, all the while songs are sung to raise the spirits and rally troops with courage to just keep on going. This is what you hope theatre can deliver – powerful messages, education, great talent and emotions stirred.

The Southwark Playhouse is the final venue of their UK tour so last chance to see a show you’ll be glad you watched! You’ll leave saying “Oh What a Lovely Show!”

Photo credit: Alex Harvey-Brown

Oh What a Lovely War
Dates 14th September 2023 – 18th May 2024
Website https://blackeyedtheatre.co.uk
Social Media @Blackeyedtheatr
Notes Ages 11+
Book Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop, Charles Chilton, Gerry Raffles and members of the Original Cast
Director Nicky Allpress
Musical Director Ellie Verkerk
Movement Director Adam Haigh
Orchestrator Tom Neill
Set Designer Victoria Spearing
Costume Designer Naomi Gibbs
Lighting Designer Alan Valentine
Producer Adrian McDougall