March 10, 2010

Oh What a Lovely War

The trouble with a review of a Pirton Players’ production in the Parish Magazine is that it’s not so much “you must see this” as “this was what you missed”. That was certainly the case with this excellent presentation of Joan Littlewood’s original Theatre Workshop production of 1963 and the subsequent star studded film in 1969. Difficult acts to follow but achieved in no small measure by the talented cast and production team in our village.

From the opening bars of Thomas Rowe’s trumpet to the haunting reworking of Jerome Kern’s “They Didn’t Believe Me”, the performance sped through the circumstances leading up to the start of the First World War, the four years of conflict and the concluding Armistice. With the story based on Alan Clark’s 1961 attack on the Great War leadership in his book “The Donkeys”, the tone is set and the feeling of utter futility is very clearly presented by the able cast. Jilly Rogers, as the Circus Ringmaster, admirably carried off her role as the MC of the “game” played before an audience either side of a traverse stage running the length of the Village Hall.

The band, under the excellent musical direction of Duncan Sykes, ran through the popular songs of the time, many of which had “alternative” words from the soldiers. The musical numbers are therefore very much by the people and of the people. The beauty with this musical play is that there are no real stars but more a series of cameos by a multi talented cast adopting any number of different roles. This was admirably illustrated by Martin Morris in two of his contrasting roles; an exasperated French General meeting an ill prepared officer of the British Expeditionary Force and then, later in the production, a Priest addressing a military congregation and telling them that the Jews could eat pork, the Catholics could eat meat on Friday, they could fight on the sabbath and that all religions endorsed the war – including the Dalai Lama.

Paul Kerswill was first class in all roles but particularly as the RSM in charge of his raw recruits, really well played, with clever casting, by the junior members. Aidan Dwyer played the part of a quite unbelievably disturbing General Haig and Amanda Vines acted and sang with great style. She was also responsible for the excellent choreography. Amongst the “chorus”, I was particularly taken with the sauciness of Janet Tackley’s recruiting policy and the multilingual talents of Lorna Sexton. Max Reiser managed his two roles as percussionist in the band as well as actor/singer with notable success.

This was an excellent evening and the show was a credit to the entire cast and crew under Producer, Stella Turner and the very obvious Directorial talents of Anton Jungreuthmayer. He moulded the performers through a complicated routine of song and dance, humour and pathos and brought us to the final denoument when the overall stupidity of it all makes it difficult to know whether to laugh or cry.

Derek Jarrett’s excellent recently published book, “Pirton – A Village in Anguish” tells some of the personal stories behind the names on the village War Memorial with strong hints of equal futility coupled with incredible bravery. The Pirton Players have given a “tour de force” on the same subject and I applaud them unreservedly.

Director - Anton Jungreuthmayer
Musical Director  -  Duncan Sykes
Producer  -  Stella Turner

Cast
Artiste  -  Thomas Rowe
Artiste  -  Max Cooper
Artiste  -  Jacob Wood
Artiste  -  Patrick Welch
Artiste  -  Amanda Vines
Artiste  -  Stella Turner
Artiste  -  Viv Tyler
Artiste  -  Rebecca Turner
Artiste  -  Dave Tinney
Artiste  -  Duncan Sykes
Artiste  -  Janet Tackley
Artiste  -  Lorna Sexton
Artiste  -  Julie Dawson
Artiste  -  Peter Donovan
Artiste  -  Aidan Dwyer
Artiste  -  Edwin Flack
Artiste  -  Georgina Flack
Artiste  -  Valmai Guess
Artiste  -  Rosie Hamilton-McLeod
Artiste  -  Helen Hofton
Artiste  -  Paul Kerswill
Artiste  -  Martin Morris
Artiste  -  Max Reiser
Artiste  -  Jill Rogers
Artiste  -  Lucinda Rowe
Flower Girl  -  Victoria Turner
News Reader  -  Ann Fausset
News Reader  -  Susie Welch

Crew
Bar Manager  -  Malcolm Brodie
Catering  -  Angela Kefford
Catering  -  Jan Simmons
Costume Hire  -  The Barn Theatre
Costumes  -  Susie Welch
Costumes  -  Valmai Guess
Director  -  Anton Jungreuthmayer
Equipment Hire  -  Bubbles Lighting
Front of House  -  Ann Lancaster
Front of House  -  Margaret Johnson
Front of House  -  Val Bryant
Front of House  -  Nikki Clark
Lighting  -  Daniel Eccles
Lighting  -  Nicola Stammers
Lighting  -  Peter Johnson
Musical Director  -  Duncan Sykes
Producer  -  Stella Turner
Programme Design  -  Sarah Oliver
Props  -  Gena Edwards
Props  -  Janette Innis
Publicity  -  Peter Donovan
Set Construction  -  Graham Gibbs
Set Construction  -  Paul Turner
Set Painting  -  Janet Tackley
Set Painting  -  Stella Turner
Set Painting  -  Georgina Flack
Set Painting  -  Helena Goldsmith
Sound  -  Sean Groves
Stage Manager  -  Loretta Concannon
Technical  -  Dave Woodward

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