Blackeyed Theatre’s 60th anniversary tour of Joan Littlewood’s anti-war satire Oh What A Lovely War rolls into Yorkshire

Blackeyed Theatre’s 2024 cast for the 60th anniversary tour of Joan Littlewood’s Oh What A Lovely War. Picture: Alex Harvey-Brown

BLACKEYED Theatre’s 60th anniversary revival of Joan Littlewood’s epic anti-war musical Oh What A Lovely War plays Harrogate Theatre from Thursday to Saturday.

A cornerstone of modern musical theatre, this exposé of the folly, farce and tragedy of the First World War was conceived and developed by Joan Littlewood and her Theatre Workshop, in Stratford, East London, in 1963, with a book by Theatre Workshop, Charles Chilton, Gerry Raffles and members of the original cast.

The fusion of timeless songs, such as Pack Up Your Troubles and It’s A Long Way To Tipperary,  piercing humour and high jinks offers a satirical account of the First World War as seen through the eyes of the common soldier.

Wildly satirical, visually striking and deeply moving, the show is a humorous but heartbreaking snapshot of life for those caught in the crossfire of conflict, a unanimous voice from the trenches and a timely warning from the theatre of war itself. Now, more than ever, it holds a mirror up to the world and speaks to us all.

The cast comprises Tom Benjamin (Fire Songs, Frozen Light; Rewind, Ephemeral Ensemble); 2023 Rose Bruford graduate Tom Crabtree; Harry Curley (Once, Barn Theatre; Summer In The City, The Gatehouse; Caligari, Underbelly); Alice E Mayer (Frankenstein, Blackeyed Theatre; The Chronicles Of Wild Hollow, Audible; Y Mabinogi, Welsh tour); Chioma Uma (Brief Encounter, New Wolsey and UK tour; Kiss Me Kate, Watermill Theatre) and Euan Wilson (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Vienna English Theatre; The Great Gatsby, Immersive London; Stick Man, UK tour).

On tour from last September to May 18, the production is directed by Nicky Allpress, with musical direction by Ellie Verkerk, movement direction by Adam Haigh, orchestration by Tom Neill, set design by Victoria Spearing, costume design Naomi Gibbs and lighting design by Alan Valentine.

“Our concept will explore the idea of war as a circus with an incredibly talented company of actor-musicians,” says Blackeyed Theatre director Nicky Allpress. Picture: Alex Harvey-Brown

“I’m so thrilled to be directing this unique piece of theatrical history, having followed Blackeyed Theatre and their extraordinary work for many years,” says Allpress. “One of the most exciting things about Oh What a Lovely War is how universal, timeless and ever relevant it is, and testament to the brilliance of the work is how it can bear endless reinterpretation.

“Our concept will explore the idea of war as a circus, with an incredibly talented company of actor-musicians bringing Joan Littlewood’s ground-breaking classic to life with music, comedy, and stories.”

BlackeyedTheatre artistic director Adrian McDougall adds: “I’m so proud of the entire team who have put together this incredible show. The experience this group of artists creates for our audiences night after night is nothing short of astonishing, and the response to the production bears that out.

“It’s also worth mentioning that our entire 2024 cast graduated from the same college, Rose Bruford, which is a real testament to the quality of its training! 2024 marks our 20th birthday, and I’m very proud not only that we continue to create shows of the quality of Oh What A Lovely War but that we do so sustainably with little or no funding and against an increasingly challenging theatrical landscape. I like to think Joan Littlewood would approve.”

Blackeyed Theatre in Oh What A Lovely War, Harrogate Theatre, February 22 to 24, 7.30pm plus 2pm Saturday matinee. Box office: 01423 502116 or

Further Yorkshire dates: Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, March 6 to 9 March, 7.30pm plus 1.30pm Thursday and 2.30pm Saturday matinees, 01723 370541 or; Hull Truck Theatre, March 19 to 23, 7.30pm plus 2pm Wednesday and Saturday matinees, 01482 323638 or; Leeds Playhouse, March 26 and 27, 7.45pm, 0113 213 7700 or; Theatre Royal, Wakefield, April 30 and May 1, 7.30pm, 01924 211311 or