Oh,What a Lovely War !

By Joan Littlewood, Theatre Workshop, and Charles Chilton

Research: Gerry Raffles after treatments by Ted Allan and others Director: Sarah Rodgers Music Director Paul Moniz de Sa Set Design: Alison Green Costume Design: Rebekka Sorensen Lighting Design: Erin Harris Choreography: Karin Konoval

Venue: Telus Studio Theatre, UBC
Dates: 23 January -1 February 2003

Reviewer: Jane Penistan

Oh What a Lovely War is an ambitious project for a student company to tackle. Originally written and presented at the Theatre Royal, Stratford by Bow in London's East End, this piece begins by looking back at a life style, which was destroyed, in the ensuing war. The carefree young things who disport themselves on the beach and enjoy the entertainment of the Pierrots on the pier are precipitated into a war more horrendous than any before. The satirical war games become deadly killing games with the young entertainers the victims. Yet through all the horror, the unquenchable. spirit of youthful optimism is maintained, often sustained by music and humour.

Sarah Rogers captures the style and spirit of a pre-1914 seaside holiday, with the eagerly anticipated Pierrot troupe 's matinee. Under the expert direction of Paul Moniz de Sa the band tunes up and the conductor, also the MC, opens the show with typical weak jokes and traditional gestures. This well executed performance gets all the audience in the mood for being entertained and he keeps the tempo of the presentation going at an exhilarating pace, from the entrance of the troupe and their singing and dancing routines to the end. True to the original format, different numbers are announced by placards placed on a stage right easel, so that everyone knows what is going on. The first tremor of apprehension comes with the first of the War Games, with French, German and British leaders and their seconds competing. After the interval the grimness of war is realized fully.

Throughout the production the singing of the old well known first war songs and the dancing are well done, both the ensemble and solo work being of a high calibre. The roles of various soldiers are adequate, for the most part, with some being outstandingly good, though a little more attention to detail in some of the non-dancing company scenes would be an improvement.

The playing area is well adapted to the changing needs of the production and the lighting dramatic, romantic, sunlit, or what is needed, always right. Rebekka Sorensen's period and Pierrot costumes are elegant and well researched, but a little more attention to detail in the uniform department would be advantageous.

Paul Moniz de Sa and his musicians keep the production together and brilliantly provide music, mood and spirit throughout.

2003, Jane Penistan