Brett Herriot Review

Oh! What A Lovely War, The Studio, Edinburgh Review:

Captivate Theatre Presents:  Oh! What a Lovely War

***** 5 Stars

” a moving and emotional exploration of humanities inhumanity to humanity”

Joan Littlewood’s and Theatre Workshop’s genre defining musical drama and political response to World War one known as the Great war first took to the stage of the theatre royal Stratford East in 1963 some 45 years after the guns fell silent. Now as we mark the centenary of the armistice Edinburgh based Captivate Theatre have revived their production and deliver an emotional, honest and truthful production.

Oh! what a lovely war is essentially a collection of sketches that allows the audience to view the war from those in charge ( Earl Haig) to the young and often under aged Tommie’s on the Front line who went to their deaths not in their thousands, nor hundreds of thousands but indeed Millions. Juxtaposing period musical hall routines with comedy and song with a hard hitting big screen slide show from Sylvia Cowie which reveals the stark horror and costs and above all else the futility of the battles.

Director Sally Lyall truly understands the material at hand and has without doubt assembled the very best cast drawn from across Captivate which during Fringe season numbers into the hundreds. A 12 strong ensemble comprised of Hazel Beattie, Scott Coltman, Aidan Cross, Frankie Cusack, Rosie Graham, Lewis Kerr, John Knox, Adrian Macdonald, Iain McFadden, Jack Pendersen, Georgia- Lee Roberts and Sam Thorne deliver dozens of characters each with consummate professionalism whilst imbuing each one with truthful humanity.  Special mention must go to Scott Coltman for his “MC” which is a triumph of comedy timing. This production remains however a true ensemble performance

Musical Director Tommie Travers has delivered the goods working intricate harmonies through out the performance and elicits special vocal performances from Rosie Graham, Lewis Kerr and Aidan Cross especially. Musically this production feels stripped back with the use of just piano, that is no bad thing as it allows the vocals to sore and pulls the audience well into the world of lovely war.

Lyall also pays tribute to Littlewood with the cast wearing pierrot head dresses during the production but Captivate utilizes period costume as opposed to the commedia dell’arte style favoured in the original. It really pays off.

A touching and precise lighting design from Gerron Stewart and explosive sound design by Travers and Joe Lyall accompany that very powerful slide show and transports the audience from the darkness of The Studio to the trenches of the somme and beyond its a remarkable piece of theatre making.

Captivate Theatres production of Oh! What a lovely war is a moving and emotional exploration of humanities inhumanity to humanity and the stark realisation that in the one hundred years that have followed the guns falling silent the lessons of the great war have still not been learned. This production of a Lovely war is a damming indictment of those who sent millions to their graves and for who this weekend we remember, for that alone Captivate should be commended. However you mark remembrance Sunday and armistice day a ticket to this production is essential in every respect.


They Shall not grow old as we who are left grow old,

Age shall not wearie them, nor the years condemn

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning

We will remember them.



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