'Oh What A Lovely War'

By Joan LittleWood's Theatre Workshop, Charles Chilton, Gerry Raffles and Members of the original cast

Performed with the kind permission of Samuel French LTD

Director - Kerry King
Musical Director - Patience Ling

"Oh, What A Lovely War" was initially performed in 1963 and has now become a classic of modern theatre. It is a theatrical chronicle recounting the horrors of the First World War told through songs and documents of the period. During the play you will see the slides of actual photographs taken during the war, which accompany the words of some of the songs. The play was originally created from improvisation and performed as an "end of the pier" show, with the actors in Pierrot costumes wearing various hats to help portray the character each of them was representing. While not using the traditional Pierrot costumes I have kept to the spirit of the production using simple stylised settings. In particular I have used colours to depict innocence, patriotism and the bloodshed that war inevitably brings.

The loss of life and the devastating effect on families that every war brings is tempered by the warmth, humour and courage in adversity that people display in a remarkable way in appalling situations. While the subject is World War One, the parallels with recent (and current) conflicts hold true - "Oh, What a Lovely War" reminds us how the military leaders were blinded by power and patriotism to the stark reality of war: how the women kept the 'home fires burning'; and how the men at the front needed to keep their spirits up with song and banter.

This play is not only a challenge to direct and perform but also inspirational and our aim is to share that with you and we hope the result is as poignant, moving, comic and thought-provoking as it has been for all of us involved.


Ladies Gentlemen
Jo Cobbold Adrian Bolton
Jane Cousins Grant Borroff
Sarah Dyer Derek Butcher
Bethany Jones Glynn Hill
Tina Kingsbury Mike Johansen
Tori Nichols Nigel Lister
Christine Phasey Ryan Maslen
Liz Porter Nigel Morton
Caroline Roberts Lester Pearse
Chris Sadd Gordon Prior
Viv Wheatley Martin Rayner
Liz Wilson John Roberts
Guy Singleton

Production Team

Kerry King, Patience LIng, Doug Newton, Paul Scott, Bruce Emeny, Maurice Barber, Andy Terry, Martin Rayner, Roger Licence, Ray Streames. Chris Bush, Val Taylor, Teresa Sizer, Gloria Streames, John Roberts, Caroline Roberts, Lester Pearse, Yvonne Cobbold, Viv Wheatley, Jo Maslen, Allison Jones, Steve Sadler.

Awards & Nominations

Nominations by the North East Essex Theatre Guild Awards were:
  • Technical Achievement: Sound and Lighting
  • Adjudicators' Award: Front of house organisation and display
  • Best Young Actor: Ryan Maslan in various roles
  • Collyer-Marine Trophy for Best Musical: for Oh What a Lovely War directed by Kerry King

The Play

The scheme for a chronicle of the First World War, told through songs and documents in the form of a seaside pierrot entertainment of the period, was devised and presented by Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, London, in 1963. It was the result of close co-operation between writer, actors and director, where the whole team participated in detailed research into the period and in the creative task of bringing their material to life in theatrical terms.

It won acclaim of audiences and critics and the Grand Prix of the Théâtre des Nations festival in Paris in 1963 and has become a classic of the modern theatre.


This latest production by the Manifest Theatre Group takes the audience on a real rollercoaster of emotions.
Oh, What a Lovely War gives an insight into the horrors of the First World War through songs and documents of the periods and slides of actual photographs taken at the time, and shown throughout the two-act play, make it even more real. The atmosphere in the Oxford Road auditorium gradually changed, as no doubt it did in the country between 1914-18, with the play opening on a light and optimistic belief of a war over in a few months, to the gradual realisation it was going on for years.

The songs and dialogue were upbeat at the start but slowly became more sombre and yes, even depressing. It was sobering to reflect that 90 years on British soldiers still march to some of these songs and the jokes in Iraq today will be very similar to those in the trenches.

Produced and directed by Kerry King, this was a thought provoking, sad, and yet at times very funny play and as always, it was another very professional production by this talented group.
The shower of poppies made a very touching tribute, for there would have been few present who did not have at least one member of their family killed in this war which was supposedly to end all wars.
Lesley Pallett

Photo Shoot

(Nurses) Caroline, ??, Christine, Jo, ??, ??, ??, Jane, Viv
(Soldiers) Lester, Ryan, Nigel M, Gordon, Martin, Gly, Grant, Guy, Mike, John, Derek, Adrian

(click on an image below to view a larger photo - arrow keys navigate through the set)