Wednesday, March 03, 2010


Billericay Operatic Society at Brentwood Theatre


A broad enough target, World War II.
Billericay Operatic still aimed pretty wide in the “nostalgic journey”, from Rule Britannia [1740] to a number from a musical about the American Civil War [1999]. And in between, Marie Lloyd and any amount of stuff from the Great War.
It's not as if there's a shortage of material. We had the Forces' Sweetheart in White Cliffs and We'll Meet Again, both beautifully sung. But where was her naughty sister-in-arms, Florence Desmond, to show us The Deepest Shelter in Town ? We had the kids Swinging On A Star, but how about at least one of the rude songs they would have been singing about Hitler ?
Admittedly there's no equivalent of Oh What A Lovely War for the Second World War, but Happy As A Sandbag might have been plundered instead of Cowardy Custard, maybe.
Though it would have been good to have more narrative drive, like the telling moment when the boys came running home from war, there was much to enjoy in this jingoistic concert party: the Stateside medley that began Act Two, Albert Evacuated, the women blending Siegfried Line and Run Rabbit, and a new number to me, If I Had Lots of Coupons.
Much of the contemporary verse was little better than doggerel, though I Left My Heart In An English Garden made an effective scene setter, even though it first saw the light five years after the blackout ended …
We'll Meet Again was devised and directed by Wayne Carpenter, with Derrick Thompson at the keyboard.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I fear you’ve been rather kinder to this lazy production than it deserves. It appears the war only happened in London, the songs – as you rightly point out – spanned the centuries and the continents, and the content obvious, undemanding and shot through with sickening sentimentality. No stone was left unturned to whip the audience into a jingoistic frenzy, even issuing flags to wave during Rule Britannia (though it was only England who never will be slaves).
As you also point out, some really good songs such as Deepest Shelter, and poignant poems such as Johnny Bright Star have been unearthed from that period, and could have been included with a little research.
But I still find it a little perplexing that all we can synthesise from the horror, bestiality and grief of war are a few ‘knock abaht’ ditties down the Old Kent Road.

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