Olivier Award-winning director Terry Johnson will revive Oh What A Lovely War at the Theatre Royal Stratford East next year, marking 50 years since it first premiered at the venue and coinciding with the 100th anniversary of World War I.
Joan Littlewood’s satirical musical, which is packed with well-known songs from the era including It’s A Long Way To Tipperary, Pack Up Your Troubles and Keep The Home Fires Burning, will play from 1 February 2014, with tickets on sale today.
A powerful comment against war, Oh What A Lovely War shocked audiences when it first played at the Theatre Royal Stratford East in 1963 for its powerful portrayal of the harsh realities of conflict.
Based on Charles Chilton’s work for radio, Littlewood developed the production with her company Theatre Workshop, which was based at Theatre Royal Stratford East and was known for its hard-hitting theatrical productions which toured through Europe and the Soviet Union. After finding success at the East London venue the production transferred into the West End and opened on Broadway the following year, where it received four Tony Award nominations.
Johnson, whose numerous critically acclaimed West End directing credits include La Cage Aux Folles, End Of The Rainbow and The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice, commented on the announcement, saying: “I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to a piece of work with such anticipation, trepidation and enthusiasm. Original productions are sometimes difficult to live up to. The challenge in this case pales by comparison to the necessity of honouring the history that inspired it. To tell those unpleasant truths again and to tell them well, and to hang one’s head that they still require the telling.”
The venue’s Artistic Director Kerry Michael echoed his sentiments, saying: “We are delighted to be bringing Oh What A Lovely War back to Theatre Royal Stratford East in its 50th anniversary year and to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the First World War. Joan Littlewood’s landmark production was ahead of its time when it was first staged here, challenging our perceptions of war. It also played a significant part in the transformation of British theatre. We are very proud that we have assembled a world-class creative team for this important production. We will remain true to the spirit of the original and will be re-creating it to resonate with modern audiences.”
Joining Johnson in the creative team will be designer Lez Brotherston who is arguably best known for his work with choreographer Matthew Bourne on productions including Swan Lake, Play Without Words and, most recently, The Sleeping Beauty.
Casting for Oh What A Lovely War is yet to be announced.