UK Tour

OH WHAT A LOVELY WAR at the Theatre Royal Windsor


“A multi-talented cast of Pierrot-style performers … give their all in this satirical rollercoaster of a show.”

As one of the UK’s leading touring companies with a commitment to theatre that ‘entertains, provokes and inspires in equal measure’, Blackeyed Theatre are continuing their anniversary tour of Joan Littlewood’s pioneering ‘Oh What a Lovely War’ with a stop in Windsor.

The piece was developed in an improvisatory style by Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop in in 1963. Her vision was to break the fourth wall that separates audience from performer, challenging elitism by taking theatre to where it was most needed as part of her proud boast that she was a ‘vulgar woman of the people’.

A multi-talented cast of Pierrot-style performers, most of whom trained on the Rose Bruford School’s Actor Musicianship programme, give their all in this satirical rollercoaster of a show. Director Nicky Allpress acknowledges the complex challenges of the piece which she describes as ‘a beast’ to rehearse – but her vision shines through.

Projections designed by Clive Elkington detail the heart-rending cost of the so-called ‘war to end all wars’ that pointlessly took the lives of tens of millions of young people whilst their unfeeling commanders remained indifferent to their struggle from a position of relative safety behind the lines.

An atmospheric backdrop is created by a circus tent inspired set (Victoria Spearing) evocatively lit by Alan Valentine. The cast play percussion, trumpet, double bass, accordion and more. They sing the old battlefield songs with a mad intensity which seemed to escape the audience member to my right. He sang along gleefully until the fierce cost of the conflict began to appear. Then he was silent.

Even before the show opens, Pierrots lounge in a box and interact with the audience in surprising ways. There are a number of stand-out scenes, including a poignant re-creation of the moment when soldiers met in no-man’s land on Christmas Day. But there’s no false sentimentality here and the satire is brilliantly sharp in a number of key scenes that depict the officer ‘donkeys’ who ordered the British lions into destruction. Naomi Gibbs has designed some clever costumes that at one point permit the cast to play both officers and wives in a viciously entertaining ballroom scene.

The company demonstrated a brilliant command of different voices, and their take on the indifferent drawl of the officer class was particularly impressive. Tom Benjamin sparkled as the MC and Harry Curley and Euan Wilson gave equally strong performances. The other members of the cast  shone equally in this non-stop cavalcade of a show.

OH WHAT A LOVELY WAR at the Theatre Royal Windsor as part of UK Tour

Reviewed on 2nd April 2024

by David Woodward


Previously reviewed at this venue:

CLOSURE | ★★★★ | February 2024
THE GREAT GATSBY | ★★★ | February 2024
ALONE TOGETHER | ★★★★ | August 2023
BLOOD BROTHERS | ★★★★★ | January 2022
THE CHERRY ORCHARD | ★★★★ | October 2021



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