Oh What A Lovely War

Exeter College news article

Date: Tuesday 27 March 2018

As second-year BTEC students our final major project marks the countdown to our release into the real world. While we stress about having to be functional people, it’s almost enjoyable to be a bit silly and pretend to be a horse or play the kazoo in rehearsals. 

The first week seemed a bit daunting, as there was a long, long trail ahead. We started off by learning songs: Row, Row, Row; Peace in our Time; and Our King and Country. We were mutually shocked when we sounded good, the harmonies worked and blended together nicely, and we created a good sound. The next thing to tackle was dance, the opening number is ‘Row, Row, Row’, there is a lot of pressure on this one as it's the first impression the audience will get of what’s to come. But after a few hours, it began to come together with our very own Young Jonnie Jones and his girlies. Next, it came to putting the first few scenes on their feet, this was a lot of us being very confused and trying to interpret ‘Nige’s Vision’. The first rehearsal consisted of us trying to read and speak German and what seemed like musical chairs. 

Week two brought even more song learning (there are a lot of songs in this show, some are only short but still a lot of songs), a cohesive beginning and snow! This was the first time we worked as an entire company as we attempted to run what we had of the show so far and work out whose where and moving where at which times. It took a while, but we made it to the end of the first section of the show with a glimmer of hope for the rest of the show and the rehearsal process. However, just as everything started to go to plan, along came Storm Emma to throw a spanner in the works. Emma caused us to have two days off rehearsal which put us behind. 

Week three. Back at it. Learning even more songs. Some interpretive dance and catching up on scenes. Workshopping our ideas. And figuring out how to be a horse and soldiers at the same time (this involved a lot of trotting and looking very silly). 

Oh What a Lovely War PosterIt’s time to introduce the kazoos, welcome to week four. We were way ahead on songs and almost halfway through act two and yet we hadn’t reached the end of scenes for act one. On the kazoo, we had to learn sections of different national anthems (Britain, French, Germany, Russian and Belgium) as part of the war game at the beginning of the show. You’d think it be easy to learn and remember a few bars of a song but when there are no words it’s deceptively difficult (until they get stuck in your head on repeat for days). We then began putting together more sections of act one which were just as confusing as it was it was the first time, however with our finalised staging it was slightly more organised. Then closed out the week with the final scenes of act one, Christmas in the trenches and Goodbye.  

We’d reached the halfway point, it was in pieces but it was something. 

Then the snow struck again. On that Monday we were meant to piece together act one ready to show to the design team on Tuesday. Who knows what was going to happen in that run through. 

Week Five. Tuesday back in, more songs to learn, one in French. Then the run through of act one, no one knew what was going to happen, nor did they know exactly what they were doing nor what was going on (well, I’m not sure about everybody else but I certainly didn’t quite know what I was doing). Nevertheless, we made it through. And it wasn’t terrible. It was actually pretty good (still not convinced on pretending to be a horse but apparently it’s funny). For the first time, it felt like we had a show even if it was just the first act. We finally began to understand ‘Nige’s Vision’. 

Now on to act two, the first scene involves a lot of different countries, so we read through it a few times swapping characters as there were some questionable accents. 

We also took some time out of rehearsal to do some marketing, as there’s no point performing to an empty audience and we need more than just family and friends to come and watch. So look out for our poster across Exeter.  

As we enter the sixth week of rehearsals and continue with act two, the end is drawing nearer. The show is coming alive like a silly Pierrot drama, which is fun to be a part of, so hopefully fun to watch. 

Do come and see us in Oh What A Lovely War down at the Barnfield Theatre on the 16th-20th May, it’s shaping up to be a great show. Get your tickets here!

By Zara Sillitoe.

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