Review: Oh What A Lovely War! performed by Hasland Theatre Company

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In the centenary of the Great War and the golden jubilee year of a musical which satirised the generals and politicans of the era, Hasland Theatre Company are paying homage to both.

The production of Oh What A Lovely War! reminds us that that conflict isn’t consigned to the history books and that when peace is shattered no-one can put a date on when it will be restored.

The devastating consequences of wartime are highlighted by chilling photographs from the battlefields and cold, hard facts detailing the loss of ten million lives in the First World War when the life expectancy for a machine gunner under attack was just four minutes.

The toll of tragedy makes grim reading in a production which shines a blinding searchlight on the futility of war.

Events which triggered the war and the conflict itself are wrapped up in an end of the pier show, staged by an ensemble of pierrots in black and white costumes. It’s an ambitious undertaking for the 15-strong cast who between them play 200 roles with two performers speaking in German and French for part of it.

This is a particularly brave mission for a company not renowned for its singing and dancing - of which there is plenty in this production - but the cast rises to the challenge.

Ian Jones provokes much laughter as the barking sergeant major instructing his troops on the use of bayonets, there’s shades of Dad’s Army with a second-in-command called Wilson while the send-up of out-of-touch military top brass who complain about the stench in the trenches or dance around difficult decisions is pure comedy gold.

While the production will make you chuckle, it will also warm the cockles of your heart with its humanity. A scene in the trenches depicts the famous Christmas ceasefire when opposite sides exchanged gifts lobbed across enemy lines in a wellington boot.

This winning production from the super troupers of Hasland Theatre Company, guided by directors Gary Keeling and John Preston, musical director Barbara Downey and choreographer Diane Bradbury, continues its run at the playhouse on Storforth Lane, Hasland, until Saturday, November 29.

GAY BOLTON