Keep The Home Fires Burning at New Theatre Royal, review: ‘A fitting tribute to those who gave so much in the “war to end all wars”’

Keep The Home Fires Burning is a new musical using songs from the First World War era, appearing at New Theatre Royal, November 4, 2018
Keep The Home Fires Burning is a new musical using songs from the First World War era, appearing at New Theatre Royal, November 4, 2018

It’s a long way to Tipperary, but a much shorter journey for the local audience to Portsmouth’s New Theatre Royal for the one-night-only performance of Keep The Home Fires Burning.

That is, unless you include the poignant and inspiring journey back in time to the trenches and the home front of the 1914-18 war.

With a multi-talented cast of musician-actors and the support of the local 50-Plus Singers, the audience was transported into the hearts and minds of those who fought, and those who waited, in a tale of love, anguish and the brutality of war, comforted by the mix of music and song from the period that kept the nation’s faces smiling and their upper lips stiff.

The show’s small core cast of seven was outstanding, featuring some excellent solo performances, especially from Fred Broom in many guises, as well as pitch perfect harmonies in the ensemble numbers – all the more impressive as the performers moved from instrument playing to singing and believable acting.

The 50-PlusSingers provided great support, filling the stage with their presence and their vocals, although a possible technical issue stopped us from hearing the best of them until the second half.

While not portraying any specific historical characters, the storyline represented the era well, from the enthusiastic volunteers hoping to ‘teach the Hun a lesson’ to the reality and brutality of war, with some scenes that were particularly heart-wrenching. Audience participation and good doses of humour kept the balance right and the enjoyment level high.

As we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1918 Armistice, Keep The Home Fires Burning is a fitting tribute to those who gave so much in the ‘war to end all wars’ and an entertaining way to keep the memory of their sacrifice alive.