“What could have possibly happened to a man that rendered his burial impossible? What horror could have taken place that rendered the burial of 35,942 men impossible and all in one relatively small area? Charles Chilton
When Charles Chilton journeyed to Northern France to seek the final resting place of his father, he found no grave, but rather a list of 35,942 officers and men of the Forces of the British Empire who died in The Great War of 1914-1918. It was Chilton’s sincere hope that such an epitaph would never have to be written upon any man’s memorial again.
‘Oh What a Lovely War’ rose as a response to his radio broadcast, ‘A Long, Long Trail’, which celebrated the songs of The Great War. Under the guidance and direction of Joan Littlewood and her Theatre Workshop, ‘Oh What A Lovely War’ sought to use documentary material and populist songs of the time to depict the lives of the ordinary Tommies on the Western Front, whilst ruthlessly exposing and mocking the generals and politicians of the time. The musical takes the form of a nostalgic and traditional ‘end of the pier’ show. This seaside mix of entertainment is a rollercoaster of comedy, pathos, satire and songs of the era.
‘Welcome to our little pierrot show; ‘the Merry Roosters’. We’ve got songs for you, a few battles and some jokes. I’ve got the whip to crack in case you don’t laugh.’
Exeter College return to The Barnfield Theatre this May with their production of ‘Oh What A Lovely War’, in order to mark the centenary of the end of The Great War, and reflect upon the play’s resonance within the world today.