Although Birds Eye View Theatre Company are focusing creating a piece based on the local people of Lincoln during World War One, we thought it best in the research and development process to discuss and improvise with all aspects of text we think we can work with whether it be musical, play, or poetry.
With some of the company having studied it , We came across ‘Oh What A Lovely War!’ written by playwright Joan Littlewood . The play was first performed by Theatre Workshop at the Theatre Royal, Stratford in 1963.
In the directors introduction, Littlewood states there is to be no Khaki costume involved and that the musical numbers are loosely based on songs of the sixties era.With this parody effect in mind, we decided to learn the song ‘Goodbye-ee’ which features in Act One:
Brother Bertie went away
To do his bit the other day
With a smile on his lips and his
Lieutenant’s pips upon his shoulder bright and gay.
As the train moved out he said, ‘Remember me to all
And he wagg’d his paw and went away to war
Shouting out these pathetic words:
Wipe the tear, baby dear, from you eye-ee,
Tho’ it’s hard to part I know, I’ll be tickled to death to
Don’t cry-ee, don’t sigh-ee, there’s a silver lining in the sky-ee,
Bonsoir, old thing, cheer-i-o, chin, chin,
Na-poo, toodle-oo, Goodbye-ee.
(Littlewood, 2000, p.37.)
After learning the lyrics, we recorded it and used the song as a backing track to introduce our pitch to our peers. We enjoyed the language of the era such as ‘na-poo’ and the track was a light-hearted approach for World War One. The song itself had a very traditional feel, an element we hope to incorporate into our work as well as making refreshing the era. Birds Eye View Theatre have also been looking at another song from the play, ‘I’ll Make A Man Out Of You’ which we will be working on in the coming weeks. Studying music of the era has been a great help for Charlotte and myself as collaborative directors. Here is our cover below…
Originally from a textual director’s perspective, I read ‘Oh What I Lovely War’ with the mind set that the dialogue written could be a potential basis for the piece. However, a musical element of the arts will also help to add diversity to our show. ‘Oh What a Lovely War’ does not fit the particular style of scripting we are looking for. The text is almost a mockery of the war and as we wish to explore the truth of the matter, we must tread carefully when portraying the First World War. We are hoping in introduce verbatim into are piece and as a team we are fully aware we must take a sensitive approach to this so not to offend any of our audience members.
Although we will be potentially using texts such as lyrics and poetry, we have be looking at letters from Grandparents, archives and museums to stylize our piece. Stay tuned to hear our musical director Charlotte teaching the birds to sing!
Littlewood, J. (2000) Theatre Workshop: Oh What A Lovely War.London: Methuen.
The Guardian (2011) Oh What A Lovely War: Nothern Stage Newcastle. [online] The Guardian. Available from http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2010/mar/11/oh-what-a-lovely-war-review [Accessed 19 February 2014].