Christopher Arkeston stars in Blackeyed Theatre’s major revival of Oh What a Lovely War to mark the 60th anniversary of Joan Littlewood’s epic anti-war musical.
A cornerstone of modern musical theatre and one of the very greatest stage satires, Oh What a Lovely War will tour nationally from September to include a three-week run from 21st November at Southwark Playhouse Borough.
Conceived and developed by Joan Littlewood and her Theatre Workshop in 1963, Oh What a Lovely War remains a classic of modern theatre, a fusion of timeless songs – including Pack Up Your Troubles and It’s a Long Way to Tipperary – razor-sharp satire and high jinks, offering a satirical account of the First World War as seen through the eyes of the common soldier.
You’re starring in Oh What A Lovely War on tour, what can you tell us about the show?
The show is a complex funny satire on a horrible event in history. Everyone knows about the horrific events of WW1 but 60 years ago Joan Littlewood wrote a wonderfully Python-esque play spanning the whole of the war. There is something in there for everyone. If you struggle to follow some of the fast-paced jumping through timelines, then you’re sure to enjoy the throw backs of wonderful songs, played by all six of the cast, that feature in the show, including Pack Up Your Troubles, It’s a Long Long Way to Tipperary, Hitchy-Koo and many more.
It was originally written in the 1960’s, why do you think it’s still so relevant today?
I think the play is more relevant today than it has been in recent years. With all the events that are occurring in the world at the moment, I think that having that comment on war just puts things into perspective.
Tell us a little about your character and what you’re enjoying most about the role?
It’s hard to put a pinpoint on my specific “character” in the show. As an ensemble we all play numerous amounts of roles throughout the performance. We have created a circus world for the play with the comment that war is a circus.
Within that we all have our base characters including clowns, a trapeze artist, a strong man and an acrobat. I play the Master of Ceremonies, or Ring Master in the circus world. I’m really enjoying bringing my base character in to all of the roles within the piece, from a British General right down to a soldier at the frontline. I also get to do a whole scene in French which was fun to learn, especially considering I don’t speak French!
And what do you find most challenging?
I think the most challenging part about doing this show is how incredibly close to home it feels at the moment. Every day, something new comes out in the news that reminds us that this is still happening right now in the world.
How is the tour going and how are audience’s responding?
The tour is taking us all over the country and we are enjoying every second of it. It’s interesting hearing all the different responses from the audiences depending on where we are in the country. People are loving it and what is even more rewarding is when we have school groups come to see us who are studying the play and hearing their reaction throughout gives us pure joy.
The tour will conclude at Southwark Playhouse, what are you looking forward to about bringing the show to London?
I can’t wait to have our 3-week run at Southwark Playhouse. It’s going to be a nice end to the first leg of the tour before our Christmas break (we then continue through the mid May!). Southwark Playhouse is such a lovely venue and I have always wanted to perform there and to be able to be there around my favourite time of the year is a bigger bonus. I love London around Christmas time, so being there just as the Christmas celebrations begin will be so lovely.
What would you say to anyone thinking of booking to see Oh What A Lovely War?
Come and see it. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. People don’t write shows like this anymore and even if you have seen it before, I think you will take real pleasure in seeing it again as it is sure to be different from what you remember. The people in the company are so incredibly talented at what they do so being able to share a stage with them and see them do their thing every night makes me very happy and I’m sure you will come out of the show stunned.