Playhouse, Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, Hamilton

03/06/2015 - 06/06/2015

Production Details


A total of 19 University of Waikato (UOW) students taking the ‘Play Production’ paper are performing Joan Littlewood’s Oh What a Lovely War.

Oh What a Lovely War is an anti-war “musical entertainment” that critiques the First World War while entertaining the audience. The show breaks hard-hitting facts about the First World War with fun musical and pierrot sequences.

Director, Gaye Poole says, “Oh What a Lovely War is the perfect project for the Play Production paper because it is a genuine ensemble piece. 

“This production and academic process stretches company members to be all round performers; sing, dance, physicalise, change roles, adopt accents, collaborate and as well share research and skills, contribute to a production or technical team.

I’m very struck by the commitment and depth of research the students are bringing to the project as we work on this together.”

Student, Amy Thomas is excited about the upcoming show saying, “Being part of THST 301 play production is like getting on a roller-coaster. The excitement of knowing we have embarked on an awesome fun-filled ride is an all-consuming feeling for many students at the moment.”

The show has been described as revolutionising British Theatre and provides a fine collision of theatrical styles in action onstage including: documentary theatre, musical theatre, perriot, improvisation, mime, music hall, and variety show.

Oh What a Lovely War also incorporates a variety of technical elements in the production including the use of slides and newspanels.

The students are required to perform acting and technical roles for the production as an assessed component of the course.

The show runs for approximately two hours with a 20-minute intermission.

The Play Production paper has been running successfully at UOW for over ten years.

The performance will be at the
Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts
June 3, 4, 5, and 6
at 7:30pm.
General admission tickets cost $12
and the concession price is $10.
Ticket sales are cash only on the door.

Theatre , Musical ,

Rich in irony

Review by Gail Pittaway 04th Jun 2015

First written and produced in the 1960s, this classic piece of musical satire is well worth reviving this century. True to the original stage concept of having World War One portrayed as a game and a show, one of many attractions at a fair, and presented by a kaleidoscope of actors each in basic Pierrot costume, Gaye Poole’s and Theatre Studies’ production emphasises the clownish tragedy of war.

When the play was first staged and later filmed by Richard Attenborough, much of the information it reveals was not well known to the public: that industries profited from war, that atrocities were allowed while the generals drank and danced, that bodies of the dead on both sides formed the structure of the trenches, and that armies experimented with toxic gases. Much of that information is well documented and available in our time, yet of course war continues to be a useful opportunity for businesses and technologies and has not gone out of fashion as means to assert national pride.

In the absence of a new satire and in the face of continuing apathy alternating with worrying nationalism from all nations, Oh What A Lovely War puts war in its place, as nonsensical. But I mustn’t make it sound too serious. It is a very funny show filled with wit, parody, caricature and joy and, in this production, played with obvious delight and conviction by a fine young cast.

At the heart of the show is the music. Popular songs from the era, genuine ballads and ditties from musical hall stages – such as ‘Row, Row, Row’ and ‘Pack Up Your Troubles’ – mix with parodies of hymns and other songs from the front and from the trenches, like ‘They Were Only Playing Leapfrog’ to the tune of ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’ and ‘When This Lousy War is Over’ to the tune of ‘What A Friend We Have In Jesus’. They tell the passage of WWI, from Sarajevo to battlefields, in and out of nations’ war chambers, leaping to the generals and their wives dancing, then switching to the troops marching then drowning in mud.

The production is very well served with the sharp musical direction of Clive Lamdin, conducting and leading an outstanding band of musicians and some of the fine soloists from the Waikato Music Department’s performance stream. 

One of the most touching moments is when the ‘Jerries’ and ‘Tommies’ share musical good wishes across No Man’s Land. The German sings ‘Stille nacht’ (‘Silent night’) and the Tommies respond with a bawdy ditty about the Cookhouse. Jonathan Eyers here gives one of his many brilliant cameos. Equally brilliant is Anna Mahon in many roles but whose ‘Keep the Home Fires Burning’ is a triumph of simple sentiment without sentimentality.

While the entire cast has worked on all aspects of the production, the roll call of talent is unending. To list a few: Alice Kennedy’s sinuous MC; Amy Thomas’ playful ‘I’ll Make Man of You’; Fiona Sneyd’s expostulating French Genéral and Mrs Pankhurst’s fruitless soap box oratory; David Marris’ Scottish ghillie; Jesse Parker-Wood’s American magnate; Emily Donderwinkel’s many accents and singalong of a tongue twister; Ruth Hare’s feisty Irish sergeant; Amelia William’s superb dancing; the many excellent slides and lighting and sound effects, and ‘grouse’ (a pun there for the initiated) properties … It’s a huge effort of collaboration. 

Although a little sluggish at the beginning of Act One on opening night, the energy is sure to be maintained for the season, and the jokes and songs soon start warming everyone up. By the mournful cast finale of Jerome Kerns’ tune to Cole Porter’s lyrics, ‘And When They Ask Us’, we have all learnt a great deal about irony:
And when they ask us 
How dangerous it was
We never will tell them
We never will tell them
We fought in some café
With wild women night and day
It was the wonderf’lest war you ever knew.


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