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I thought I was going to see a satirical show – but it ended up as a poignant tribute to those who fought for us all, and also reminder of the horror and futility of war.  It showed the movers and shakers of the time such as Haig to be totally unsuited to command, and to be ignorant of the suffering they caused the troops by their misconceived ideas.

The concept of using a more or less black stage – with no scenery as such, and relying on props and the back screen rojection, meant that we were even more aware of the starkness of the situation and the decisions made.  The projected pictures were very telling, and a good backdrop to the action.

I liked the band on the stage down left – and the fact that they were very smartly dressed in khaki uniforms linked them well to the action.  The configuration of the band was good – very dance band at times, and military band at others – I commend Robin White, and also for the musicality he encouraged the cast to bring to their numbers.  Some of the songs could easily have been totally throw-away, but they ended up being often funny, and always full of meaning.

Mariam Gaballa-Gill has great enthusiasm, and it was obvious she encouraged her cast to go that way – so despite the dark matters covered, there was an upbeat feel to the production, and the comedy was brought to the fore.

The lighting enhanced the action, and helped to create the atmosphere needed to give life to the production.

The cast looked smart and all credit to them and the props team, for all the hat and label flag changes that seemed to be accomplished without too much trouble.  The fact that there were so few people playing so many different parts meant that we, the audience, had to keep on our toes, so that we didn’t miss the many and diverse changes to the action.  The black tops and skirts for the ladies and shirts and trousers for the men worked well, the ladies skirts had a slight sheen which meant the black wasn’t completely flat.  I’m not a fan of black for costumes on a mainly black stage – but because the props used were colourful the overall effect was good.

The choreography worked well, and was suitable for everyone – I liked the waltzing round the central pedestal, so that each couple was at the front as they spoke – a tried and tested format, but it gave movement and interest to the words.  The title song also incorporated excellent and well-drilled choreography.

Katie Lovell sang both her numbers well, but I especially loved Keep the Home Fires Burning – she got expression and clarity in the words, a lovely calm moment amongst the chaos of war.

Penny Pomroy was impressive as Mrs Pankhurst – not an easy speech, but she accomplished it well.

The rifle drill was hilarious – and when you think back to reports on the training men got as they went to war – it probably wasn’t far short of what actually happened.  Lee Marsh as the sergeant major had a touch of Windsor Davies (Sergeant-Major Williams) about his strutting – which created humour as well.

Terry Casserley and Marlon Gill, along with the other men created good characters, the show must have been very hectic for them all, and the fact that they had to change character and accent nearly every time they came back on stage was remarkable – both Marlon and Terry gave us well-interpreted songs.

Paul Passi’s speech in French was excellent – he sounded as if it was his native tongue – whilst George Hutchinson also delivered his speech in German very well.  

Rebecca Budd had two numbers which she sang extremely well, plenty of projection and sound, and Roses of Picardy with Paul Passi was lovely.

When This Lousy War is Over was beautifully sung, and the men did justice to the many numbers they sang, particularly in Act 2, which seemed to be over-run with music, and it was a shame that some were so short.

The ladies also performed really well, and gave lots of meaning and expression to their songs. Other than those already mentioned Susan Lanning, Lis Harbour, Jennifer Moore, Jenny Templeton and Kirsti Trower all had various solo lines that they performed well.

The whole cast were excellent – the solo and ensemble numbers were all very musical and animated.

The final number and tableau was striking  and poignant – I loved the poppy petals floating down and the lit crosses – it was very atmospheric and created a fitting end to a well-performed and thought-provoking show.


Hemel Hempstead Theatre Company


review date: 11th Oct 2014  

Boxmoor Playhouse

Director:  Mariam Gaballa-Gill MD: Robin White


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