Lions Led by Asses 1914-1918

If there is an unquestionable 5 star element to this performance it has to be its location. Hannah House, or more technically Fringe Venue 490, is a small and homely garden flat deep in Regency Hove. The location, however, could not inspire me to the reach the passionate excitement I had hoped for. I have an avid interest in the music, stories and especially poetry of the First World War so my eagerness can be understood. The part-lecture, part-singalong, part-reading is written and performed by Alan Felton with a, may I say, rather underappreciated accompaniment from an impressive Mary Vel. Whether it is because I have been introduced to the stories of the First World War before, I am not sure, but the show lacked anything really original. The poetry came from Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, poetic leviathans who no doubt represent the mainstream of this world so to speak; the songs, though very fun to sing along with, were well-known and rather famous. The show was interspersed with stirring and more niche pieces yet they were few and far between.

The poem’s power comes in its consideration, something we may not have always been offered as an audience in this show.

That said, I could be missing the point. The room seem filled with an audience obviously appreciative of the chance to enjoy these jovial yet heartrending songs on what is the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. And, to accuse the performers of channelling the well known pieces may be a rather harsh judgement, seeing as all the poems selected were of great magnitude and timbre. In a way, I left the venue wanting a lot more, yet was entirely content with the material given. It was a good show, yet the subject matter, with all its horrors and beauty in a sense can deliver more. The director's choice to meld different wartime pieces together did not function to any great effect. It simply left me wondering if it was 'correct' in a way to follow Owen's Anthem for Doomed Youth almost immediately by a song. The poem’s power comes in its consideration, something we may not have always been offered as an audience in this show. That said, the affair as a whole was good fun.

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The Blurb

Alan Felton presents an entertainment depicting the music, poetry and writings about World War I. He covers four years of death and disaster out of which came humour pathos and great writing. Many poets, musicians and writers were killed in action or died of their wounds. It was a war that changed the world for ever.