Charles Chilton

stratford east

Sad news – the death of  Charles Chilton, whose BBC work on soldiers’ songs was taken up by Joan Littlewood and turned into Oh What a Lovely War fifty years ago.

He was not just a scholar of popular culture, but also the creator of two institutions important to my childhood –  the Journey Into Space radio serial, and the Jeff Arnold comic strip in the Eagle.

Just after the report of his death comes news of an anniversary production of ‘Oh What a Lovely War’, to be presented at the play’s first home, the Theatre Royal, Stratford East. The director will be playwright Terry Johnson, who might just be the man to make the play work again. I’ve heard of a couple of fairly recent productions that did not work – making the humour too sloppy and the sentiment too sententious.  The thing about Joan Littlewood as director was that the end result was always fast and light, but depended on disciplined and alert acting. I saw Johnson’s production of ‘La Cage aux Folles’ a few years ago, and reckon that he might just pull this one off.

The one trouble being, of course, that the play’s history is more than somewhat unreliable…




  1. Elizabeth Plackett
    Posted January 5, 2014 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    There was an excellent documentary on the making of Chilton’s The Long, Long Trail on Radio 4 last night. The programme itself will be on R4 Extra this afternoon.

    • Posted January 5, 2014 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for reminding me. I’ve just listened to it on iPlayer. Brilliant.

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