Oh, What A Lovely War! salutes victims of the Somme

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Oh, What A Lovely War! salutes victims of the Somme

Theatre goers could find themselves fighting to get into Lewes Town Hall next week for a unique production of Oh, What A Lovely War!
Staged during the 100th anniversary year of the Battle of the Somme, Lewes Old Grammar School’s version of the musical will set out to recreate trench warfare – for the audience.

“We’re planning to build trenches for them to walk through to get into the auditorium,” explained LOGS director of drama Margo Gunn, who also called out the army to help with rehearsals.

“The Territorials have been coming in to teach the students how to salute, march and form fours,” added Margo, who first worked with the local TA on a previous school production of Much Ado About Nothing.

Featuring reworked popular songs from the First World War, combined with back-projected historic images of battle scenes and the relentless death toll, Oh, What A Lovely War! marked a turning point for British theatre when it premiered at Stratford East in 1963. Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop production was subsequently turned into an award-winning film by David Attenborough.

Some years later, Margo worked alongside members of the original cast while researching verbatim history of the Stratford East area for the Theatre Royal. “There was a lot of work based on the same semi-documentary style that grew out of Joan Littlewood’s staging of Oh, What A Lovely War!,” she said.

“The play is a really interesting mix of form and content. There are some very funny comic moments and the students are enjoying it enormously in rehearsal but there is a growing awareness…when the newspaper image goes up at the back of the stage with the number of men who died in that particular battle, it’s a sobering moment.”

More than 30 students are involved in the production, but the issues it raises have touched many more in curriculum-related activities. Works inspired by the musical will be on display at the Town Hall as part of the annual summer LOGSFest, which celebrates music, art and drama.

“It’s 100 years since the Battle of the Somme, but I think the play still speaks to us today,” says Margo. “There is an interesting scene, for example, about war profiteers and who makes money from selling arms. It’s a political piece but not in the sense that it tells you, the audience, what to think. The point is, it should make you think.”

Oh, What A Lovely War! opens at Lewes Town Hall on Monday July 4 (7pm) and continues on Tuesday July 5 (7pm) and Wednesday July 6 (2.30pm & 7pm) . Tickets are available from www.LOGS.uk.com priced at £7 for children and £10 for adults.

Caption : Margo Gunn, director of Oh, What a Lovely War!

…end… 27 June 2016
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