This musical has form in our family. My parents saw and frequently talked about the original production at Stratford East in the early sixties and I listened to the cast album as a child. I worked on the National Theatre circus tent version in the mid-nineties, and now I could take the minimoles to the anniversary revival by Stratford East. For those who don’t know this show (and why not), it is a unique combination of end-of-the pier music hall, Brecht and oral history which tells the story of WW1 focusing on casualties, the war machine and the stupidity of the leaders, through the popular songs of the era. Above all it features the songs sung by the soldiers – in the last era before song was something you listened to a recording of rather than someone singing it then and there.
Goodbyeee, goodbyeee; It’s a long Way to Tipperary; Keep the Home Fires Burning; the title song; Hold Your Hand out Naughty Boy; Pack Up Your Troubles – you’ll know every song once you hear it. There’s little to add other than this one of the most moving, bitingly satirical and funny collection of songs in history.
The show is virtually bullet-proof and this one is faithful to the original concept – down to the surtitles which clock up the inexorable progress of the slaughter – while dropping in the odd contemporary reference. Wendi Peters is the pick of the singers and brings the house down with a audience join-in on Sister Susie’s Shirts. The ending – which cuts between General Haig who sees himself as a divine instrument of victory, an army curate and the men – is still savage.
The film is a flawed pale version of a show which needs to be seen onstage, and if you’re in Hull, Truro and Wimbledon you can still catch this tour. Do. You’ll learning
Mainly grey hairs tickled pink by the very mild audience interaction. Heavy on the ice creams and G and Ts at the interval.
It made me think..
That we’ve learnt surprisingly little over the last century. The staging was supposed to stop the audience bursting into tears and instead remaining politically angry. I couldn’t stop the eyes pricking half-a-dozen times.