Review: Pain and heartache joined by joy of music and laughter

Oh What a Lovely War, Belgrade Theatre until April 4

Oh What a Lovely War is a moving production.

And so much comes out of the juxtaposition of the jolly, jingoistic war songs, even the bawdy, gutsy songs of the soldiers and horrors portrayed on the stage in microcosm and on the backdrop screen in reality.

The company has some very famous faces and some that will be famous in years to come.

I particularly liked the role of Master of Ceremonies (Ian Reddington) who initially guided us into the ‘War Games’ section that laid out, in as few moves as possible, the reasons behind the First World War.

I have a History degree but I’m not going to attempt it here...suffice it to say the four-year scrap left ten million young men dead and many more injured and missing.

If I’ve painted a picture of pain and heartache, yes.

But overall it’s an optimistic and funny production where the joy of the music – with a real band in a real orchestra pit – and Wendi Peters leading the audience in a rich rendition of ‘Sister Susie Sewing Shirts for Soldiers’!

The part that did it for me was the famous scene of Tommy on Christmas eve listening to ‘Gerry’ singing Stille Nacht and responding with ‘Christmas Day in the Cookhouse’.

And an amazingly choreographed game of football in no-man’s land.

This is first-class stuff and as such truly unmissable.

Rating 9/10

By Jane Howard