Players’ tribute to conflict casualties

Morpeth St George's Community Players rehearsing Oh What A Lovely War.
Morpeth St George's Community Players rehearsing Oh What A Lovely War.

A MOPRETH theatre group will turn the clock back 100 years next week to highlight the horrors of the First World War.

St George’s Community Players will be taking to the stage in a timely production of Oh! What A Lovely War, by Joan Littlewood.

The group is presenting the emotional piece as a tribute to those who died or suffered loss in the conflict, which broke out in 1914.

Jared Johnson, who takes on a joint role as both Producer and Director said: “As 2014 is the centenary year of the outbreak of the First World War, it seemed appropriate for us to mark the date by staging this theatrical chronicle of the horrors of war.

“Obtaining permission to stage an amateur performance of this play in this year is quite a coup for the players and by performing it, we hope to pay tribute to the millions who died or suffered loss in this terrible conflict.”

For Jared Johnson, producing as well as directing Oh! What A Lovely War has presented its own set of challenges, but the 69-year-old has nevertheless enjoyed carrying out the joint role.

He said: “For the past couple of years, I’d been thinking about the players staging this and now is obviously the right time to do it.

“I know of other groups who are also performing it, as well as it going on a professional tour.”

He added: “About 10 years ago, I produced Crusader, a play about the Jarrow March with a cast of around 35, but directing this performance has presented a set of challenges for myself.

“For instance, we have not had one rehearsal where every single member of the 26-strong cast has been together, but I do know that they, as well as myself, have enjoyed it. There are some poignant bits and it is very emotional, but it also contains a lot of humour.

“Members of the cast appreciate that the play has different layers in it and the horrors of the situation. It is not a continuous narrative, but very episodic, with a series of episodes which are connected to build up a picture of the war.

“Andrew Hamnett, who has been accompanying throughout our rehearsals, will be playing during the show, and we have also enlisted the services of a live six-piece band, with musical arrangements by Rose Reeve.”

Jared has put an awful lot of hard work into arranging for the group to stage it, as well as coping with a cast of 26. There are several new members, including a 14-year-old boy, the age at which many lads were volunteering for the war, and a genuine visiting couple from Grenoble, so the audience should listen out for authentic accents.

The players will stage three performances from Thursday, March 20 to Saturday, March 22 in St George’s Church Hall. Doors open at 7pm and curtain up is 7.30pm. Tickets are available from Morpeth Chantry Tourist Information Centre, priced at £6, £5 concessions.