War has no limits, affecting young and old, rich and poor and changing their lives forever.
Drama can be as powerful in the hands of competent generals and well-drilled troops of the performance arts world.
This week Dronfield Light Opera Group shines the spotlight on bombs, snipers, mustard gas and trenches in tribute to the centenary of the First World War.
Oh What A Lovely War is a hefty undertaking for the company, not least in its staging which sees an extension to the main platform to bring the action closer to the audience. Three accompanying musicians look as though they are immersed in a trench as the extended stage arcs around them.
The side wall at Dronfield Civic Centre serves as a giant screen on which haunting images of soldiers serving on the Western Front flash into view and key events leading up to and during the Great War are projected.
Technical effects are as dramatic as the performance with bomb blasts and gunfire causing viewers to jump. Dry ice swirling across the stage simulates a gas attack. Simple torchlight is used to dramatic effect in an ensemble song, Hush, Here Comes the Whizzbang.
Thirty-seven performers, dressed all in black, take on more than 200 roles, one of whom has to deliver a lengthy speech in French and others adopting the accents and mannerisms of Russians, Germans, Belgians, Irish, Scottish and American. They signify the switch in roles by donning appropriate hats, which are hung up on hooks across the width of the stage.
This ensemble piece takes on the form of a concert party in which well-known songs such as Hold Your Hand Out, Naughty Boy and I Don’t Want to be a Soldier are interspersed with a drama setting out the developments in the war.
Community spirit is writ large, not least in the script but in the apportioning of roles which sees teenagers Matthew Humpage, Arron Young and Alex Glentworth play foreign secret agents and rookie Irish soldiers to great effect.
Light relief comes in townsfolk walking their imaginary dogs and there are even shades of Dad’s Army in there with a second in command called Wilson, one character being branded ‘stupid boy’ and a bunch of hapless conscripts being drilled in handling weapons.
Poignant scenes are never more pronounced than in the finale where female performers come to the front of the stage to lay poppies around a tin hat. The woman beside me was in tears at last night’s opening performance and I came close to doing the same.
Oh What A Lovely War is directed by Katie Preece, with musical direction by Karen Cook and choreography by Andrea Powell.
The production continues until Saturday, May 24, with performances at 7.30pm and a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm. For tickets, call 01246 416364.