Melbournians ought not miss this production of Oh What a Lovely War with fine singing by a strong cast. Book now. http://benfuller852.wix.com/pierrot-productions
This year marks one hundred years since the beginning of World War I – The “war to end all wars”. Over that time, the human race has failed to change radically enough to see anything near an end to the violence and catastrophe that war inevitably brings. Put simply, nothing has changed. US drums of war are with us.
We enjoyed and urge you to attend Renegade Theatre, in association with The Trades Hall Literary Institute, and Ben Fuller’s first rate production of ‘Oh What a Lovely War’, the legendary anti-war musical play first created by Joan Littlewood and the Theatre Workshop in 1963. My mother a theatre Director knew Joan Littlewood and was influenced for her Australian work.
The show that shook Britain.
The controversy still rages. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/10604911/Oh-What-a-Lovely-War-Why-the-battle-still-rages.html
The production takes place in The New Ballroom of the Trades Hall Building in Melbourne, a site of historic significance, where the anti-conscription movement assembled during World War I. The audience on entering Trades Hall are shown a plaque of the WW1 people’s vote against conscription.
The cast of activists and skilled performers do justice to the depth and complexity of Littlewood’s script. The play’s high level political commentary is delivered at a fast pace with intelligence and wit. And yet the themes are clearly communicated for a wide audience.
The show opens with Pierrot clowns performing Mel Brooks-esque slapstick comedy, complete with audience interaction. The cast remain in Pierrot costumes throughout the show – including on the battlefield and at highfalutin international presidential dinner dances.
The idea of conveying a hard hitting anti-war message while wearing clown suits sounded risky to me. Would it be too obscure? Would it come across as surreal and abstracted from reality? Would the audience consist of five old white guys? Are the members of Renegade Theatre a bit nutty? It quickly became apparent that, just as writer Joan Littlewood expected her audiences to be smart enough to get it, director Ben Fuller is not actually taking such a risk – he knows that it works. The cast pull it off to a T.
The play is a history lesson in war-time decision making processes. The truths of war are revealed as blood-thirsty field marshal Douglas Haig refuses to acknowledge the atrocities of war. He is happy to lose hundreds of thousands of troops if it means driving the enemy into the ground. A jovial grouse shooting expedition highlights the vested economic interests behind the scenes of the slaughter. One hundred years on, little has changed.
A French mutineer, war deserters and a Christmas day drinking session with Jerry and Tommy (German and British troops) in No Man’s Land depict the bravery and humanism of the working class when soldiers refuse to follow orders.
The play’s musical director Jonathan Harvey does an amazing job on the tunes. Ben Fuller has cast professional performers – including Paul Dawber who plays the all powerful Haig. The women in the show sing spectacularly. Dianne Algate’s rendition of I’ll make a man of you is top notch. A certain chain-smoking Renegade Activist MC still had his voice perfectly intact after three straight nights of yelling, singing and screaming at new army recruits.
Littlewood said of the original production that she wanted people to leave the theatre laughing at the “vulgarity of war”. But in the final scenes of the show, quiet sobs can be heard in Trades Hall’s New Ballroom as the audience reflects on the sadness of senseless death. Renegade Theatre does a great job of adapting a complex and sophisticated play into an entertaining, energetic, tear-jerking show. A must see.
The company brings together members of the activist community with the theatre community to voice our ongoing disgust at our own and other imperialist governments responsible for the ongoing involvement of nations in wars such as the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions, as well as other conflicts around the world.
The show is one that is held close to the hearts of many around the left, including the director, Ben Fuller, who recreated the play with fellow students and staff while studying Musical Theatre at WAAPA in 1998. Ben had been looking for an opportunity to stage the show again since then. Trades Hall Building Caretaker and activist Jacob Grech, who had spoken to Ben numerous times over the past few years about the idea, arranged for the production to be endorsed by the Trades Hall Council as part of the 100th anniversary of this terrible event.
As a member of IPAN, Independent and Peaceful Australian Network, I believe the choice of this musical is important in raising the question of peace and to challenge our ruling class’s dominant ANZACery propaganda.
As well, in an earlier era Labor governments at Commonwealth and State levels financed a highly regarded Art and Working Life programme to support community theatre and with the unions (cancelled). This production, now opened in Melbourne, would be recognised and assisted to continue seasons and tour interstate and regionally. As this is not happening…Book now!