Tag Archives: Adam Haigh



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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The Mikado

The Mikado


Wilton’s Music Hall

THE MIKADO at Wilton’s Music Hall


The Mikado

grabs you by the cheeks, pulling them out into the widest smile


With a backdrop of tall slender trees silhouetted against a mist of dusky blue light, sits a solitary tent. There is an Englishness that removes the location as far away as possible from the fictitious Japanese town of Titipu, further emphasized by the main characters being renamed as though they have all wandered in from a ‘Jeeves and Wooster’ story. There is no discernible reason for the resetting, but it is immediately clear that this is going to be lot of fun indeed. With lashings of laughs. Sasha Regan’s all-male “The Mikado”, which first toured in 2017, is a topsy-turvy romp that, despite having only one tent as the central scenic prop, is as camp as a whole row of them.

Kimonos and fans are replaced by baggy shorts and cricket bats in a world where Enid Blyton has collaborated with Morecambe and Wise. As inventive as it is confusing, at least it has done away with the cutesy but dated and potentially disrespectful Japanese monikers. Nanki-Poo, the Mikado’s estranged son disguised as a wandering minstrel, is now Bertie Hugh. Central love interest Yum-Yum becomes Miss Plumb. Pooh-Bah is Albert Barr, Pish-Tush, Wilfred Lush… well, you get the drift. Except that the town’s name is left intact. Here, in Titipu (‘titter ye not’, boys and girls) it has been decreed by the Mikado (Lewis Kennedy) that all flirting is punishable by death. His son and heir, Bertie Hugh (Declan Egan) has fled to escape an arranged marriage to Kitty Shaw (Christopher Hewitt). Disguised as a wandering minstrel, Bertie returns to court his true love Miss Violet Plumb (Sam Kipling), only to discover she is betrothed to Mr Cocoa (David McKechnie) the High Executioner.

A fairly conventional basis for the farcical plot twists that unravel from it. Boy loves girl. Both are unhappily betrothed to others. Yet the fanciful and completely loopy laws of Titipu add spice to the conundrum. Unrequited love is one thing – being buried alive or beheaded is another thing entirely. It is highly enjoyable and highly silly in equal measure. Even if the 1950s scout-camp setting doesn’t necessarily have a point, the updating and adaptation of W. S. Gilbert’s libretto is ingeniously witty and clever. But what brings this production to vivid life is the performances from a superbly talented company. Led by Musical Director Anto Buckley on piano, Arthur Sullivan’s score is held in high respect and delivered beautifully by this all-male ensemble. They instinctively know the nuances and can marry the comedy with the emotional force required by the compositions.

The beauty of Buckley’s solo piano accompaniment allows the voices to shine; undiluted, unadulterated and unenhanced by technical wizardry. Sam Kipling’s solo – the gorgeous ‘The Sun, Whose Rays are All Ablaze” is a shimmering example, with not a false note to the falsetto. David McKechnie’s scheming, wide boy Mr Cocoa belies a purity of voice, as does Declan Egan’s bumbling Bertie. Christopher Hewitt’s jilted Kitty Shaw is rich in tone and comic flair, particularly during his solo, ‘Alone, and yet Alive’. When the company all comes together in harmony the effect is mesmerising: a gorgeous juxtaposition of virtuoso singing with the spirit of burlesque.

The book contains many of the stock paradoxes and Catch-22 quandaries inherent in Gilbert and Sullivan’s works. Regan’s setting is a little conflicting and confusing, but once you’ve accepted it, the joy of this fun-filled production reaches out and grabs you by the heart. It also grabs you by the cheeks, pulling them out into the widest smile. Sometimes it feels as though the cast are enjoying themselves a little too much. However, it always feels as though the audience are enjoying it more.



Reviewed on 9th June 2023

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Mark Senior



Previously reviewed at this venue:


Ruddigore | ★★★ | March 2023
Charlie and Stan | ★★★★★ | January 2023
A Dead Body In Taos | ★★★ | October 2022
Patience | ★★★★ | August 2022
Starcrossed | ★★★★ | June 2022
The Ballad of Maria Marten | ★★★½ | February 2022
The Child in the Snow | ★★★ | December 2021
Roots | ★★★★★ | October 2021

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