REVIEW: Oh What a Lovely War, Connaught Theatre, Worthing

A PLAY written 50 years ago about an event that took place nearly 100 years ago might lead you to think it’s going to be a bit dated.

Not so with Oh What a Lovely War, in which the satirical exploration of the futility of war and man’s inability to end it is just as relevant today as it was when Joan Littlewood created it in 1963.

She was determined to raise issues like the unfair treatment of soldiers compared to officers and the ludicrous political decisions that played with men’s lives. And she did so in a way that combines laughter with tears.

Blackeyed Theatre’s version, which opened at the Connaught Theatre on Tuesday (October 11), adds up-to-date references with a screen at the back, opening with shots of the war in Afghanistan and taking us back through various wars to the First World War, the “war to end all wars”.

Many of the older generation may think they know everything there is to know about the Great War, though family experience or history lessons, yet the statistics that punctuate the live performances here still seem unbelievable, even though we know them to be true.

Having been touring for three years, this is a polished production in which the five actors get involved with the audience from the start, chatting in the auditorium as people arrive.

A small amount of interaction continues throughout, helping to keep the audience involved and making the emotive scenes seem more personal.

In between music and laughter, performed in pierrot costumes, there are stark portrayals of frontline action and amongst the jollity, the realities of war for the “man on the street” is never far away.

Oh What a Lovely War runs at the Connaught Theatre until Saturday (October 15), at 7.30pm daily with a matinée today (Wednesday) at 2pm and Saturday at 2.30pm.

Elaine Hammond