Our current production is 'Oh What A Lovely War'.
Director, Matthew Westrip, explains below why he's excited to get started on this special piece of theatre:
"The opportunity to be involved with a piece as powerful, poignant and profound as Oh What A Lovely War is something that does not occur very often. This opportunity is all the rarer and more poignant as the last performance of this production will fall on the 100th anniversary exactly, forming the centre of The Borough of Lewisham’s commemorations of when the guns fell silent and Europe was confronted by a hard-won peace. How then could one refuse to work on Joan Littlewood’s masterpiece?
Oh What A Lovely War first previewed on 19th March 1963 at the Theatre Royal Stratford East. It is a biting satire of the First World War whilst furthermore critiquing all conflicts. It was a revolutionary production fusing various genre. Casts of tens playing thousands in striking Pierrot costumes combined with contemporary pieces formed a lasting iconic theatrical image, the clown with the colonel’s accoutrement simultaneously embodying the full absurdity of the grisly affair. The contrast between harsh images of war, contemporary musical hits and the unfathomable statistics projected for all to see result in a theatrical experience like no other.
The show, both piece and production, juxtaposes the gaiety of the bank holiday on a pier in August 1914 to the misery of the trenches which escalates its power and its ability to move. The songs are all contemporary from the early years of the music hall and light entertainment to latter ones composed by soldiers in the trenches. Like the most affecting art from the First World War it allows the ordinary soldiers to speak for themselves. The piece struck a chord with audiences on both sides of the Atlantic and around the world then and even still today.
Despite the horrific events of ‘the war to end all wars’ being over a century ago the scars of its catastrophic results can be seen on the memorials in every city, town and village, the family members missed, and the stories passed down through generations.
Millions of young men and women gave the greatest sacrifice for a country seeing it as nothing less than their duty. In Joan Littlewood’s magnum opus, we see a piece that although seemingly irreverent in tone holds nothing but respect for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Having directed for Artform two years ago with a highly successful production of Forbidden Broadway and having performed as John Wilkes Booth in Sondheim’s Assassins in May 2017, it is a privilege to be asked to take the reins of this once in a lifetime opportunity."