Tag Archives: Tom Neill



Theatre Royal Windsor

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



Click here to see our Recommended Shows page


Ghosts on a Wire

Ghosts on a Wire


Union Theatre

GHOSTS ON A WIRE at the Union Theatre



Ghosts on a Wire

“This new work is brimming with ideas and interesting historical characters”


This new play by Linda Wilkinson is performed in the pertinent space a stone’s throw away from the historical area whence the story comes. The building of an electricity power station on the south bank of the Thames in the 1880s was to transform the lives of Londoners: on the north bank they received light and power; on the south bank their homes were demolished, and the area was filled with heat, smoke, noise and foul air.

An ensemble of six, directed by PK Taylor, tell the story. Everyone takes on double roles and are generally proficient despite some overly side-on positioning. Coming to terms too with a rather wordy text, the actors will need a few more performances to achieve a better fluency. A sparsely set stage and a bare back wall provides sufficient ambience. With mostly subdued lighting throughout, the use of foot lights and stage up-lighting proves especially effective and atmospheric.

Three cigar-smoking, ale-quaffing gentlemen represent the developers revelling in the knowledge that the redevelopment of Southwark is a money-making evil. In the south bank pub, The Watermans Arms we meet William and Sarah Shelfer (Ali Kemp). They are delighted that their pub is to be the only remaining hostelry after the demolition of the area, a delight that turns into horror once they discover that the noise of the power station makes living and working impossible. Andrew Fettes excels in his two contrasting roles: as both Lyon Playfair MP with his top hat and Etonian articulation, and pub landlord Shelfer with his flat cap and estuary vowels.

Playfair, representing the London Electric Company hopes to bring Octavia Hill (Gerri Farrell), known campaigner for fair living conditions, to be part of the redevelopment plan. We hear some laborious backstory from Hill, rather ponderously delivered. Introducing lesbian overtones, she tells her companion Harriot (Deborah Klayman) of the double male betrayal by her father and by artist John Ruskin which all seems to carry little significance.

Before all of this, however, we see an opening scene from a previous generation and a metaphysical discussion between author Mary Shelley (Klayman), poet William Blake (Timothy Harker) and scientist Benjamin Franklin (Tom Neill). The three historical figures are the ghosts in the title, first overlooking the action, reflecting upon what they see, and then connecting directly with the future. There is a rather over-played séance scene – Mrs Cook (Farrell) gurning and shrieking – and philosophical debate between Blake and Hill.

The projection (Chris Lince) on the back wall is the star of the show. A central Faraday cage throws out electrical sparks, an indicator of the arrival of the ghosts. Scenes through a window, wall lights, maps of the area, and images of the working power station add to the success of the story telling, culminating in a magnificent St Paul’s Cathedral.

A six-part close harmony song that breaks the fourth wall, masquerading as a pub singalong, seems incongruous with all that has gone before.

This new work is brimming with ideas and interesting historical characters but lacks overall coherence. Perhaps there is room for more than one play here. Beyond Octavia Hill wanting a new electric cooker, and some observations that the lights on the north bank of the Thames look pretty, there is little suggestion that the move towards electricity is a positive one. But this is a Southwark story, and the bias is forgivable.




Reviewed on 26th September 2022

by Phillip Money

Photography by Martin Butterworth





Recently reviewed by Phillip:


The Wellspring | ★★★ | Royal & Derngate | March 2022
The Woods | ★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | March 2022
I Know I Know I Know | ★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | April 2022
The Homecoming | ★★★★★ | Cambridge Arts Theatre | April 2022
The Paradis Files | ★★★★ | Queen Elizabeth Hall | April 2022
A Midsummer Night’s Dream | ★★★ | The Maltings Theatre | May 2022
Space Station Earth | ★★ | Royal Albert Hall | May 2022
Starcrossed | ★★★★ | Wilton’s Music Hall | June 2022
Much Ado About Nothing | ★★★ | Jack Studio Theatre | August 2022
Playtime | ★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | September 2022


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