Socialist Worker

Hair: anti-war voice from the 1960s still resonates today

by Siân Ruddick
Issue No. 2200

The cast of Hair

The cast of Hair

A new production of the 1960s anti-war musical Hair has come to London after taking New York’s Broadway by storm.

It is set in the US during the Vietnam War. The threat of conscription hangs over young people and they find different ways to resist.

The conflict is the linchpin of the production. One central character is Claude, who hangs out with the rest of the hippies.

But when it comes to the draft card burning ceremony at a free love gathering Claude is the only one to keep his intact.

His parents voice opinions in support of the war, but aren’t gung-ho. Claude’s mother says, “You have to go, everybody knows that, because of the top secret reason.”

The audience laughed, albeit nervously, at the similarities between that and Iraq.

There is also a tension between the stereotype hippies that make up the majority of the cast and one woman, Democracy’s Daughter. When she is introduced the cast chorus, “She protests!”. It made me think, what have the rest of you been doing?

She describes a demonstration outside the White House where the police fired tear gas and used dogs on the protesters.

Claude ends up joining the army – terrified about his fate and what he will be forced to do.

The final scene shows him in army uniform. As the cast sing “Let the Sun Shine In”, they part, to show Claude’s body lying on the stars and stripes at the rear of the stage.

This moment is poignant, and stands in sharp contrast to the “peace, flowers, freedom, love” chaos that has gone before.

Weak politics, but very good fun.

Directed by Diana Paulus
The Gielgud Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 6AR
Until Jan 2011

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Article information

Tue 4 May 2010, 18:46 BST
Issue No. 2200
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