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Oh What a Lovely War (Susan Elkin reviews)

Oh What a Lovely War continues at Southwark Playhouse, London until 9 December 2023.

Star rating: five stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

This year marks the 60th anniversary of Joan Littlewood’s ground-breaking, devised show which satirised the absurdity and obscenity of war, roundly condemned the officers who gave the orders, issued relentless, chilling statistical reminders of the horrifying scale of the casualties and wrapped it all up in commedia dell’arte and songs from the First World War.

Normally it’s done with a sizeable cast so that you get chorus numbers and lots of cameos. In this production it’s entirely in the hands of just six actors, all actor-musos, most of them recent graduates of Rose Bruford College’s actor-musician degree, the leaders of which are going to be delighted with this show and the quality work their alumni are turning out.

Rarely have I seen so much talent in a small space and never have I seen six actors work so hard, although – with commensurate professionalism – they make it look effortless.

The energy level is phenomenal as they leap on and off instruments which they play with warmth and enviable competence, whether it’s an Irish jig or a poignant lament …

Read the rest of this review at Musical Theatre Review:

Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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