Review – Oh What a Lovely War

The obscene loss of life and the seeming indifference to this by the upper classes across Europe is the main thrust of Oh! What A Lovely War being staged by The Mellow Dramatics at Burton’s Brewhouse Arts Centre this week.
The company have chosen to put on this show as the country, as a whole, marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War.
Joan Littlewood’s satirical musical is played out as an end-of-the-pier-show with the majority of the cast dressed Pierrot-style in white clowns’ outfits and the actors taking on many roles.
It is basically a sketch show as some of the major figures in the conflict pass across the stage and the ensemble provide a musical backdrop to their comings and goings.
Throughout the show a news announcer reads out the spiraling cost in human lives for little or no gain on the battleground. The dull monotone of the announcer counterpointing the jolliness of the music.
Songs that were popular at the time of the outbreak of the Great War provide a bouncy first half as the country prepares itself for the coming conflict, while the second part of the show bring out the horrors of trench warfare and the gallows’ humour that enabled the combatants to get through the day.
Ably led by an MC dressed as a circus ringmaster the cast delivers the spirit of Littlewood’s satire as working men die in battle and the toffs, on both sides, count their ill-gotten gains from armaments manufacture.
With opening night out of the way I hope the cast can relax into their many parts and enjoy the show which contains such well known numbers – well to my generation – as Hold Your Hand Out You Naughty Boy, Roses of Picardy and Keep The Home Fires Burning.
Oh! What a Lovely War remains a powerful indictment of war and its message is still relevant today as young men and women of many nations continue to die on far off fields of battle.
The show continues at the Brewhouse Arts Centre, in Burton, until Saturday night.
There are performances every night at 7.30pm and a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm. Tickets, priced £12 for the evening shows and £10 for the matinee, are available from the Brewhouse box office on 01283 508100.

Bill Pritchard.

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