Terry Johnson’s revival of Oh What a Lovely War is a musical commemorating the 100th anniversary of World War 1 and I’m ashamed to admit that I clearly didn’t pay attention in my history lessons at school because my knowledge about World War 1 was decidedly lacking. This meant that I went to the theatre as a blank canvas and left feeling a little confused.
The show started with everyone dressed in Pierrot costumes, giving it a real pantomime feel, but in spite of that I found it impossible to connect with the play. It was with relief that I watched the audience peeling with laughter and wondered why I wasn’t getting it. Scene followed scene, but nothing flowed. I felt disconnected. Something was missing.
However everyone around me was still singing and humming along to the many numbers including ‘Pack up Your Troubles’, ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’, ‘Hold Your Hand out Naughty Boy’ and ‘Keep the Home Fires Burning’, creating a warm feeling within the theatre.
On the positive side, the cast were superb, I loved the set and the many costume changes, and Wendi Peters, best known for her role of Cilla Battersby in Coronation Street, instantly grabbed my attention with her glamour and presence as she hit the stage.
I was indeed relieved to find that the second half was a great improvement on the first. Despite the fact of learning that 10 million lives were lost, with another 30 million wounded, the play was kept light and humorous and we left with a clear anti-war message to take home.
Unfortunately, I’m sorry to say that this musical didn’t tick my boxes, although my friend Roger, who saw the original 50 years ago, couldn’t stop raving about it, acting ridiculously like a child at Christmas! I consoled myself with the thought that life would be boring if we all like the same things.
Oh What A Lovely War runs at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre until Saturday 2nd May.