Oh What A Lovely War, Stratford East, London. March 2014.
March - the month of madness, well it was this past weekend as Rebecca and I decided to see three plays and an exhibition in just a weekend. To make it even more awkward none of the plays were in the West End and the one tube line that made the schedule easy was shut...
It didn't matter in the slightest and the weekend started in East London with the revival of Oh What A Lovely War. Neither of us knew much about the show except that it was in the form of review, about World War One and the first 'anti-war' pieces.
Summing the afternoon up is still impossible, I was swept away by the show in many ways. It was very funny, incredibly well acted and sung and yet at the same time it did manage to portray the horror of war and immense casualty lists without seeming didactic.
However in the light of all of the books, television shows and films that have come since OWALW broke the ground it did feel dated and old fashioned and not shocking in the way it must have been in 1963.
And that is where my review founders because I had a great afternoon in the theatre, but even without knowing much about the show I went in with different expectations and feel disappointed that they weren't met. This feels very unfair to the show for it was engaging and fun, just not quite what I'd expected.
On another level it was very interesting as my studies in to the history of performance have just covered Brecht and I could see all of the theory I'd recently read acted in front of me - something that became a bit of a theme during the weekend.
My other thought was what a lot War Horse owes to OWALW, not just in theme but in staging choices, despite being such different takes on World War One.
I feel that I've damned Oh What a Lovely War with faint praise. It was great fun, and moving, but perhaps just not quite so shocking now that the horrors of the First World War are so widely known, studied and written about.