On 28 July 1914 the world changed forever. Triggered by the assassination of the Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, the Great War resulted in the loss of 16 million lives and another 21 million wounded.

With Oh What a Lovely War opening at Theatre Royal, Stratford East last night, we take a look at what London's theatres are doing this year to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War.


Oh What a Lovely War (Theatre Royal Stratford East)


Oh What a Lovely War was first staged at Stratford East in 1963
Oh What a Lovely War at the Theatre Royal Stratford East
© Nobby Clark


The revival of this 1963 musical satire starring Caroline Quentin, marks not one, but three anniversaries; the 100th anniversary of the Great War, the 50th anniversary of the original production and what would have been the 100th birthday of director Joan Littlewood, born less than three months after the start of the war.

Read Michael Coveney's review here.

Until 15 March 2014.


What the Women Did (Southwark Playhouse)



What the Women Did is a commemorative triple bill of plays from the 1920s about the experiences of women left behind during the Great War. The plays featured are Luck of War by Gwen John, Handmaidens of Death by Herbert Tremaine and The Old Lady Shows Her Medals by JM Barrie. The ensemble cast includes Susan Wooldridge, best known for her role as Daphne Manniers in The Jewel in the Crown, Matthew Cottle recently seen alongside Rowan Atkinsonin Simon Gray's Quartermaine's Terms.

Until 15 February 2014.


Versailles (Donmar Warehouse)



Peter Gill's new play looks at how the treaty that ended the war impacted a middle-class family from Kent. To accompany this production, the Donmar will present a series of events called Impossible Conversations. These will be with leading political and cultural commentators exploring the debate around the legacy of WW1.

Until 5 April 2014.


Dr Scroggy's War (Shakespeare's Globe)



WhatsOnStage Award winner Howard Brenton returns to the Globe with his new play about the First World War. Dr Scroggy's War follows 19-year-old Jack Twigg on his journey to the trenches and back. On his way, he meets the pioneering medic Harold Gillies, who saves his life and his sanity. But who is the mysterious ‘Doctor Scroggy' who appears at night in Gillies's hospital dispensing champagne to the patients?

From 12 September 2014.


Love's Labour's Lost, Love's Labour's Won and The Christmas Truce (RSC - Royal Shakespeare Theatre)



As announced last week, the RSC will be marking the anniversary with a double-bill of Love's Labour's Lost in rep with Love's Labour's Won - the alternative title for Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Christopher Luscombe (his RSC debut).

This will be followed later in the year by a new play by Phil Porter, The Christmas Truce. Based on real events in the First World War and directed by deputy artistic director, Erica Whyman.

From 23 September 2014.


The Silver Tassie (Lyttleton – National Theatre)



Sean O'Casey's powerful, huge and rarely performed anti-war play of 1928 displays a jagged madness that belies its Dublin tenement setting and gives full expression to the horror and waste of war.

Ireland, World War One. Dashing Harry Heegan leads his football team to victory, arriving home in swaggering celebration before he grabs his kit and heads for the trenches. A nightmare world awaits.

From 15 April 2014.


War Horse (New London Theatre)



The National Theatre hit production set during the Great War is holding various events throughout the year to commemorate the occasion, details of which have yet to be released.


After A War (LIFT)


No fewer than 25 international artists are collaborating on this project as part of LIFT 2014, which will examine "the impact and legacy" of the Great War. Taking place at Southbank Centre and Battersea Arts Centre, it culminates in a three-day weekend programme taking over the whole of BAC - a fitting venue considering it's where trials for London's conscientious objectors were held from 1916.

27-29 June.


Birdsong (UK Tour)

Following on from last year's National tour, seen by over 75,000 people, Birdsong is a stage adaptation of the bestselling novel by Sebastian Faulks.

In pre-war France, a young Englishman Stephen Wraysford embarks on a passionate and dangerous affair with the beautiful Isabelle Azaire that turns their world upside down.

Set both before and during the Great War, the story is told by a large ensemble company including Olivier-nominated actor and former Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan and Hollyoaks‘ Jonny Clarke.

At venues across the UK until 5 July.


The Last Days of Troy (Royal Exchange Theatre)



The Manchester venue is taking a slightly different approach to its commemorations with this new version of The Iliad. The play by acclaimed poet and author Simon Armitage is the story of two countries moving towards war - how conflict starts in a petty way and then escalates at a great cost to human life.

As reported this week, Lily Cole plays Helen Troy in this production that runs at the Royal Exchange from 8 May to 7 June, before transferring Shakespeare's Globe.