Overview

Oh What a Lovely War


Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

A: Charles Chilton and Theatre Workshop under Joan Littlewood Pf: 1963, London Pb: 1965 G: Hist. drama in 2 acts; prose and songs S: Pierrot show portraying events in Europe, 1914–18 C: 11m, 4fThe Pierrots introduce themselves with songs and jokes, and the Master of Ceremonies announces ‘the ever-popular War Game’. Using news panels, slides, and contemporary songs, the history of the First World War is told. 1914: Britain, France, and Germany prepare for war. Archduke Ferdinand is shot, and the nations use this as a pretext to rush into war. Troops are mobilized, and Belgium is invaded. Recruits are drilled, and French, British, and Belgian generals talk at cross-purposes. The first wounded are brought home, while a sentimental song is sung. During the first Christmas, British and German troops leave their trenches to fraternize. 1915: general conscription is introduced. On a shoot in Scotland international arms manufacturers boast about their profits, while men die in the trenches. 1916: at an elegant party in London, the smart set, amongst them Sir Douglas Haig, indulge in political infighting. As Haig delivers a patriotic speech, the news panel records the loss of half a million men at Verdun. Some Irish soldiers push forward so far that they are shelled by their own artillery. Mrs Pankhurst pleads for peace. Suicidal attacks are launched on the German lines. 1917: still stalemate, as the battlefields become a sea of mud. 1918: the warring nations all look forward to victory, and the soldiers advance, baa-ing like sheep.

A: Charles Chilton and Theatre Workshop under Joan Littlewood Pf: 1963, London Pb: 1965 G: Hist. drama in 2 acts; prose and songs S: Pierrot show portraying events in Europe, 1914–18 C: 11m, 4f

In this collectively devised piece, Joan Littlewood with her left-wing Theatre Workshop members created one of the most powerful commentaries on the First World War. By juxtaposing popular song with the horrors of war, the empty optimism of the leaders with mass slaughter, and the profits made by the Establishment with the realities of trench warfare, the piece does not offer a balanced view (no mention of the colossal contribution by capitalist USA, for example) but provides satirical entertainment of the highest order.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.