Published: 07/09/2014 17:24 - Updated: 05/09/2014 17:42

Veterans sign up for Florians' wartime show

Louise Munro (left) and Maureen Pringle return to the cats of Oh What a Lovely War after a 47 year gap.
Louise Munro (left) and Maureen Pringle return to the cats of Oh What a Lovely War after a 47 year gap.

FOR its return to the Front, Inverness drama club The Florians has recruited some veterans of its own.

In the year that marks the centenary of the outbreak of World War I, The Florians are staging a revival of director Joan Littlewood’s own anti-war satire Oh What A Lovely War, which uses the songs of the trenches and the Home Front music halls to tell the story of "the war to end all wars",

This is the Florians’ second production of the play. Back in 1967, less than half a century from the war’s end, The Florians staged the show in the Empire Theatre in Academy Street.

Now, 47 years later, two members of the same cast appear in the Florians’ 2014 version, Louise Munro and Maureen Pringle.

For one of them, Maureen Pringle, it represents a long delayed opportunity to appear on stage in the show.

"I had rehearsed all the up to about three weeks before, then I got appendicitis and ended up in hospital, so I didn’t actually get on stage," Maureen Pringle revealed.

"I ended up sitting in the wings, singing my heart out and being the prompt. I just didn’t appear on stage.

"I got my chance later. At the closing of the Empire, they did an except from it and I got to sing Keep The Home Fires Burning, which was really nice."

Pringle had a further chance to perform some of the songs from the show when The Florians performed old time music nights at hotels in Inverness and Nairn, but this new production directed by Trevor Nicol takes a unique approach to the show which also includes gathering stories of the company members’ own connections to World War I.

That made Pringle look into her own family history and discover more about her grandfather Sergeant Major Gordon McGrotty, who joined the army in 1888 at the age of 14. He survived the war, but was left with a legacy of chest infections and bronchitis and died in 1935.

His story, and those of other relations of The Florians’ cast, will be projected on screens as part of next week’s show.

"There are a lot of interesting sidelines to this show," Pringle said.

"Because it is based on fact, it becomes very emotional. You can’t really understand what they went through properly, but you get some flavour of the stupidity of it.

There’s a scene where the businessmen are sitting around saying the war can’t get too soon because they will lose money and you think: what’s changed? It’s a lovely piece and very emotional for everybody. Trevor has put his heart and soul into it and has done a terrific job.

A scene from the current Florians' production.
A scene from the current Florians' production.

"I hope people are not getting fed up with the subject. It has reached saturation point on television, but this is a different aspect. I’m hoping people will come along because they will certainly enjoy it. There are a lot of laughs because it is very funny as well as being very poignant."

One person who did make it onto the stage for the 1967 production was Louise Munro, who admitted she found it strange taking part in the same show after so many years.

"It’s weird — I could open my mouth and sing all the songs. From 1967, I can remember all the words — and I can’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday!" she laughed.

"But it’s been nice because it’s a totally different concept from what we did last time."

The Empire Theatre, commemorated in the name of the largest auditorium at Eden Court, may have been authentically Edwardian, having opened as a cinema in 1912, but Munro believes the rather newer Florians Theatre in the Bught has an atmosphere of its own that will benefit the show.

"It’s a small intimate theatre, so perhaps there it will have more impact because it’s very emotional in lots of ways," she said.

"Although it’s a satire, it’s a very moving show and very pertinent and relevant to this time.

"There’s a moment that still moves me to tears and puts a lump in my throat," she said.

"It’s when they are told to go over the top like lambs to the slaughter and they all go ‘baa!’

"That just gets me, because that was just what it was like. The song, Keep The Home Fires Burning, that got to me as well. If you listen to the words of the songs, although some of them are satirical, they have real meaning as well."

• The Florians present Oh What A Lovely War at the Florians Theatre, Bught Lane, Inverness, from Tuesday 9th to Saturday 13th September.

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