Oh What a Lovely Play: WW1 musical returns to Stratford with a bang
PUBLISHED: 12:10 05 February 2015 | UPDATED: 12:30 05 February 2015
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“War games” returned to Stratford this week for a second run of Joan Littlewood’s classic play Oh What a Lovely War.
The dazzling production hit the stage of the Theatre Royal Stratford East last year to mark the centenary of the First World War.
Now it’s back with a new cast ahead of a national tour in 2015.
Coronation Street’s Wendi Peters, who played Cilla Battersby, and EastEnders’ “Tricky Dickie” Ian Reddington join an ensemble cast as pierrot clowns to dance and sing their way through the “war to end all wars”.
The cast switch accents from French to Scottish to German to Irish with ease to portray the scale and horror of the conflict.
As with Littlewood’s original production in 1963 in the same theatre, the revived play draws on the ideas of German theatre practitioner Bertolt Brecht to convey the madness and pity of the war, using music and costume to keep the audience off-balance.
Reddington was masterful in his role as head pierrot, guiding the audience through the action and moving from bawdy comedy to pathos and tragedy with charm and great skill.
Wendi Peters shone in every scene, but highlights included the songs I’ll Make a Man of You and Sister Susie’s Sewing Shirts.
However to single out cast members misses the point, as the play is a force of nature that relies on but transcends its performers, reminding us that drama can be a weapon in the right hands.
The play runs from Jan 29 to Feb 7, with national tour dates for 2015 at stratfordeast.com
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