About the play
Oh What A Lovely War was devised and produced by Joan Littlewood’s Stratford East Company and first performed in 1963. Charles Chilton chose and developed the music and it was arranged by Alfred Rawlston.
The play is blatantly anti-war. It makes no attempt to present an objective view or to display the many individual acts of heroism. The whole tone is one of mocking despair at the blunders, the absurdities and the vanities of generals and statesmen alike.
The idea of having the war acted out as a game by pierrots and the extensive use of soldiers’ songs emphasises the horror of the realities being presented. A war in which there could be 60,000 British casualties on one day can perhaps only be approached through their rather black humour.
Some people may feel that it is desrespectful to the dead to mock the struggle in which so many lost their lives. But we must be careful to notice that the mockery is not of the ordinary ‘Tommy’ but of the blind and callous war machine which dominated their lives. Men were gassed, maimed and driven insane in a war which few could explain the purpose of and
which neither side could win. What epitaph can match that inhumanity?