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Monday 30 May 2016 3:55 AM

Theatre News

09:00 Friday 27 June 2014  Written by Lucy Elder

Audience at the centre of war-themed musical

Audiences will find themselves at the heart of the First World War at South Hill Park this summer.


Joan Littlewood and her Theatre Workshop’s iconic stage musical, Oh! What a Lovely War, will be taking over the venue in an innovative adaptation.

Commissioned by South Hill Park in association with Bracknell Forest Council as part of centenary commemorations, Scene Productions are putting on an interactive performance of the show across the rooms and grounds of the Bracknell theatre.

“The difference with this production is it is an interactive promenade performance, so the audience will be taken on a journey,” said artistic director Katharine Hurst of Scene Productions.

“After the first act, they are split into four groups and each guide will take them to a place they can watch a scene.”

The songs British soldiers sang during the 1914-1918 conflict are at the centre of the production and it first opened just over 50 years ago at the Theatre Royal in Stratford East.

A military ballroom, a fair, a recruitment tent and a trench – complete with smells -  have all been designed and made so rather than watching the show, it will be all around them.

At the end, the audience come back together to view the final act, where the soldiers go over the top.

The wider community is also at the heart of the show, with a community choir taking part, which boasts members from eight to 84 years old, and a space displaying stories of soldiers from the Bracknell area that served in the war.

“We are trying to throw as much as much at it and make it as special as possible,” said the 34-year-old.

Katharine said having the show at the Bracknell venue is especially exciting for her as she has been performing there since she was 11 years old.

“They have created the most incredible set,” she said.

“I really don’t think they [audiences] are going to expect what they see.”

This is not the first interactive promenade performance the company, founded in 2004 by Kelly Taylor-Smith and Katharine, has done.

Their interactive production of Woyzeck, which focuses on the psychological effects the First World War on a soldier, ran a six month tour across theatres and schools from October to March.

Oh! What a Lovely War is suitable for adults and children over eight years old.

Oh! What a Lovely War is at South Hill Park on Friday, July 11 - Sunday, July 13 and Thursday, July 17 - Sunday, July 20.

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