Oh What a Lovely War | WhipLash TheatreOh What a Lovely War, created in the 1960’s by Charles Chilton, Gerry Raffles, Theatre Workshop and members of the original cast, is a stunning powerful play about the First World War. It contains moments of great hilarity and moments of profound sadness.

Unfortunately, WhipLash Theatre’s production, now playing at the Subiaco Arts Centre, had none of that. For all that it made out to be, it was not a professional performance.

The cast were young; many with no formal training, and it showed in their delivery and consistency. The play lacked the satirical elements that are needed to turn the play from cheese and camp to a powerful insight into war.

Oh What a Lovely War is part musical, and it is the musical elements that were the strongest in this production. The cast sing well known war songs such as ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’, ‘Keep the Home Fires Burning’ and the title track ‘Oh It’s a Lovely War’.

Based on voice talent, the cast were chosen well, and they worked agreeably as a vocal ensemble. Some of the better moments were acapella songs, where the voices rang with true emotion, fully showcasing the power of the words.

It was a simple set but the cast need to practice and settle down into the scene changes. There was an effective use of slides projected onto a white, parachute style cloth at the back of the stage. These brought the horror of the war into the piece, in stark contrast to the comical scenes. The ones with the most impact read simply: Battle of such and such, 80,000 allied lost, Gain – nil.

The lack of microphones hindered some of the solo singers, and if I had been sitting on the sides, I may have missed some of the songs. As it was, I often strained to hear the voices over the five piece band (lead by Kate MacIntosh on Piano). The band itself could do with tightening and a lesson in moderating the sound of the horns.

I question the choice of costumes (by Marjorie de Caux). The males wore bright green rolled up trousers and a variety of tops (most often stripped boat shirts), and the women in cabaret style skirts/ tops/feathers. The overall effect was slightly tacky and I could see little reason for the choices.

The choreography was poor (Claire Nichols), although the cast executed it well. It was too much like rock eisteddfod numbers. There were also technical issues with the lighting cues that meant some songs were sung in darkness (which were obviously not meant to happen given the expression on performers faces).

It was obvious that the ensemble was trying hard and believed in what they were doing. But the standard was not up to a professional level and to me, it felt like I was watching a high school musical. I’m sure given a few years, some life experience and training, the ensemble would produce a much better piece. This was however, just disappointing.

WhipLash Theatre presents
Oh What a Lovely War

Venue: Subiaco Arts Centre | 180 Hammersly Road, Subiaco
Dates: 27th of February to Saturday the 8th of March
Times: Wed - Sat @ 7.30pm
Tickets: $25 full, $20 concessions
Bookings: BOCS www.bocsticketing.com.au
Further information: www.whiplashtheatre.com

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