'OH WHAT A LOVELY WAR': Theatre Review by Jonas Trottier and Kat Dos Santos
Oh, What a Lovely War! is a piercing anti-war musical first devised and performed by Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop in 1963, in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the beginning of The Great War. In her introduction to the play Littlewood writes that, “This is not a conventional play, and it will not come alive if treated as such.”
And indeed, War! is a play which asks many things of its performers, not the least of which is a Brechtian approach that demands a distance between the actors and audience; the actors are not portrayed as individual characters the audience may connect with, but rather as embodiments and extensions of larger concept. In one of his essays, Brecht writes that, “the actor is bound not to bring about [...] empathy”, and Phil Arnold’s director’s note for this production echoes this notion by urging us as an audience to “not feel any sentimentality”. Knowing this, the London Community Players must first be commended for having the courage to tackle this beast of the modern theatre, as the prospect of performing any piece of theatre in the style of Brecht is enough to scare away many less experienced companies.
After seeing the LCP production on the 25th, Kat dos Santos and Jonas Trottier put their heads together to get to the bottom of where this production left them.
Jonas: So, you came into this production fresh—having not