Tuesday, 1 July 2014

OH WHAT A LOVELY WAR by The People's Theatre Company
Nottingham Arts Theatre.

Keeping the original Joan Littlewood idea of making up all of the actors in pierrot costumes with white faces to replace the harshness of war with a "soft, fluffy entertainment" image, providing an ironic contrast to the tin hats which were also wore. Joan  wanted audiences to leave the theatre laughing at the "vulgarity of war".

A lot of the comedy, I felt, was lost through poor sound and not enough projection from some of the 63 actors. i know that director Maggie Andrew said that she wanted anyone to be a part of the production but I felt that by having a smaller cast may have also been beneficial, sometimes more isn't always better.

Now I'm not saying that there were any poor actors on the stage, not at all because the one thing I admire about The People's Theatre Company is that everyone can have the chance to shine, and they wouldn't be there unless they wanted to be, but there were several character actors with that extra spark which did shine a beacon throughout the sometimes ploddy proceedings.

I hate to be negative, but I can't be "Mr Nice Guy" all the time if I'm to be honest to myself and the actors, directors, producers etc that have given their time, blood sweat and tears for entertainment. I felt the timing and flow between scenes could have been tighter, some of the reactions to the really good sound effects were slightly delayed, some of the accents were roving a bit, but there were also some excellent accents from several of the actors.More props were needed, if you're going to show an actor drinking out of a glass, let's see not just the drink but the glass as well, unless miming was to tie in with the pierrot persona. if it was I apologise for my ignorance on this part. I also know that props can be costly and money is scarce even for big professional productions. Finally in the negative mode I think the show would really have benefitted from on stage, or clip on microphones. Oh and it was not only me who noticed one of the instruments was slightly out of tune or key or something.

OK now that's out of the way and I close the lid on my Craig Revel-Horwood persona, here's the other side of me. Mike Pearson was, as usual, a star in his "circus master" style outfit injecting a panto feel about the show, and a welcome comic relief.

Lily Taylor-Ward was sublime as she sang "Roses Of Picardy" in a gorgeous dress oozing style and glamour, and also appeared in several other roles, as did many of the other hard working actors in the show. I noticed there were some pretty quick costume changes as well.I loved John Uttley's Seargeant Major character, again injecting some real character and humour into the show.

There really are no "stars" in this show and that is how it was originally meant to be, so if this was the case, there was a hell of a supporting cast!

I loved the Christmas Day scene which was one of the highlights of the show, that and the ending which was incredibly poignant. The costumes were great, the sound effects were powerful, some nice choreography from  Natalie Randall and  the cinematic backdrop enhanced the show with some shocking facts about the First World War.Plus there are some very enjoyable vocals all through the show.

This is one hell of a show to stage and now is the time to do it, but hats off to Maggie Andrew and the whole cast for taking it on. OK it's not going to be in my Top 5 favourite People's Theatre productions, but they have such an impeccable track record with great shows that this may just be the one blip that all companies experience once in a while. I may not have been over impressed but that;s all to do with the high benchmark they have set themselves.

"Oh What A Lovely War" is on at The Nottingham Arts Theatre until Saturday 5 July 2014

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