words and music by James Beeny & Gina George.
St James Theatre 12 Palace Street SW1E 5JA To 11 July 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 1hr 45min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 264 2140.
Review: William Russell 2 June.
The nightmare that was Gallipoli.
Taking its title from poet Siegfried Sassoon – “Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin / They think of firelit homes, clean beds and wives,” this is based on the story of Captain David Salomons who saved the life of one of his men when their troopship was accidentally rammed off Gallipoli in 1915 – he gave him his lifebelt and was himself drowned – this musical has its heart in the right place. The Gallipoli campaign was one of the Great War’s great disasters, a misguided attempt to distract the enemy from the war in Flanders. The death toll was horrendous.
We meet the young men and their wives as they enlist and end-up under Captain Salomons, then follow the men to the front, while statistics of carnage are recited by a panel of famous names, their faces projected at the back of the stage. It should be as searing an indictment of that war to end all wars as Joan Littlewood’s Oh, What A Lovely War!, but somehow it misses the mark and half-way through diverges into what the women left behind did.
This belongs to a different play and takes away from the story of how these young men lose their lives simply as a result of a collision that should never have happened.
Music is provided by a six-piece band, Virgin Soldiers, who perform it to the hilt, but melodies tend to the monotonous and some lyrics make no sense at all. Just what the cast are lauding at the end about their land is anybody’s guess.
However the singing is good, the cast immaculately drilled, and those statistics of death and destruction have lost none of their power to horrify, while the discussions between the politicians running the war voiced by some of the famous faces are chilling. There is a lovely moment when they morph into faces of real politicians and soldiers, including Churchill and Kitchener. Using famous faces is, however, risky as one ends up trying to identifying the names because not all the names are as famous as their faces.
The Players: Kate Abbott, Alex Beharrell, Liv Chadbon, James Brock, Mia Fiore, Laura Hayward, Oli Jagot, Ben Parkhurst, Nick Pavely, Seb Pettitt, Dan Piper, Hannah Richards, Kiah Spurle, Amy Tidey, Charlotte Tingley, Freya Vidal, Faye Watson, James Weatherley-Buss, William White, Emily Woodhan, Simon Woodham, Harvey Young.
Director: Mark Piper.
Lighting: Morgan Jones.
Sound: Andrew Josephs.
Musical Directors: James Beeny, Gina George.
Costume: Kathy Mighali.