|As Christians we are a people of peace, following Christ who has commanded that we pray for our enemies, and tells us that all who make for peace are blessed.
In this centenary year celebrating the end of World War One, I am delighted that Hornsey Parish Church is performing Oh! What a lovely war (OWALW) this week.
As we know, satire is one of the sharpest forms of criticism, encouraging the viewer or the listener to see subtle, and sometimes less than subtle, resonances where glimpses of the truth can shine out. And the news only this week of events in Salisbury, as well as coverage of the possible meetings between North Korea and the United States remind us how fragile peace might be and how it must be constantly nurtured.
I remember singing the song “Oh! What a lovely war” at school. The title of the musical was inspired by an old music hall song, “Oh It’s a Lovely War”, which features as one of the main songs in the show.
What’s OWALW about?
The first act of OWALW draws the audience into the sentimentality of the war propaganda and sense of bonhomie that was prevalent at the beginning of the First World War. It opens at the seaside, where young men and women relax, until the MC announces that it is time for “the war game” to start. As the war begins, the soldiers are trained and march off to fight.
The true horror of the war is then borne out in Act Two as horrific images of the realities of war for all sides are accompanied by other satirical songs. As General Haig orders further, fruitless offensives, the soldiers sing traditional music hall songs with their lyrics changed to reflect the brutal reality of life in the trenches.
Towards the end, as the true brutal truth of war is articulated through word and image, the ensemble sings “Oh It’s a Lovely War”, further adding to the strength of this piece of musical theatre that seriously questions the whole basis of war.
Why is a play about WW1 the church’s business?
As Christ’s church we are called to be prophetic, to call the people of our parish to look beyond the stresses and strains, and the comfort and convenience of their own lives, and be recalled to truths much greater than ourselves. The cure of souls which I share with the bishop is about all the residents of Hornsey, whether they are of Christian faith, another faith, or of no faith, and art is a particularly effective way in these parts to address important issues. Also, in our Mission Action Plan, we are committed to being a space where God can be encountered through beauty and art, and we look forward to these in abundance on the OWALW stage this week.
All the talk has been about HPC 60/60: is there a link?
Yes, most definitely! The 60/60 project is all about the creation of new and viable community spaces to help faith and community to meet, and where compassion and creativity can be expressed. I insist that our Stages for Faith productions are performed in the church itself to take full advantage of this opportunity to showcase our presence in the community, and encourage people to respond to the invitation of Christ that can be ministered through us to “come and see”.
Can we all play a part?
We certainly can, and there are many ways to be involved. Please come and see the show! This is not only a way to a great evening, but is also an encouragement to the cast and crew involved, letting them know that we regard them all as part of our church family, whether they worship with us on Sundays or not, helping us in our important mission of reaching out and into a community to whom we really do have things to say and to do with. Also, productions of this sort gather people together making a family out of strangers, offering the acceptance and love that the church should be all about, affirming that everyone has God-given gifts to offer and a role to play.
This is also a great opportunity to help the church grow by inviting friends and relatives to come to see the show with you. You never know, someone you bring along may well respond to the invitation to “come and see” and get to know us better. And please pray for the all involved in the show – with God’s grace it will be a huge success in a whole variety of ways.
See you there…
I look forward to seeing you at the show this week, together helping to promote peace and reconciliation, and celebrating the presence of Hornsey Parish Church in the community. Evening performances are Weds (today), Thurs, Fri & Sat at 7.30pm . Doors open at 7.00pm. There is a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm. Doors open at 2pm.
There will be an interval. Licensed bar. Book tickets online via the church website, or pay on the door (subject to available space).
Any profits from OWALW will be shared with the Royal British Legion.
With the assurance of my prayers for you, and please join me in praying for the show,