JOAN Littlewood’s extraordinary musical satire Oh What a Lovely War is possibly the most effective anti-war show ever devised, accessible to all ages and attitudes and shining the searchlight from all angles on the reality of conflicts.
In this Great War anniversary year, productions of the show – first performed by Theatre Workshop in East London in the early 60s – are frequent, and in Salisbury the noted Stage ‘65 have joined for the first time with Musical Theatre Salisbury for a co-production, directed by Mark Powell, designed by Steve Howell and choreographed by Maggie Rawlinson with Liz Weager in charge of the music and the orchestra.
It has been a vast undertaking, with a cast of 55 whose ages range over six decades.
The original idea was that a troupe of pierrot players enact the First World War, changing hats and props to bring to life generals and footsoldiers, arms dealers, politicians, wives, mothers and good time girls.
The soldiers are English and German and Italian and French and Belgian. Their commanders battle not at The Front but with languages they are too proud to get translated.
There are moments of high comedy and heartbreaking poignancy in this extraordinary show, the production of which requires military precision and constant pace.
In the Salisbury production there are five pierrots, whose antics are performed on a moving thrust platform centre stage. No-one is credited with any individual characterisation, but there are memorable moments from the sergeant major and his green volunteer troop and the five pierrots, as well as the German carol singer.
The production continues until Saturday 9th August.