The mantra ‘Make love not war’ neatly summed up the nature and appeal of Hair – the rock musical that defined the genre – when it burst on to the London stage half a century ago.

Back in Oxford last week on a 50th anniversary tour, the show proved that it’s still a scorcher, as tautly directed by Max Reynolds and with a five-piece on-stage band working their socks off.

But the dismally small audience on opening night – the collective lack of hair among the gentlemen telling its own story – suggested that its time may have passed. Who now has even heard of its writers Gerome Ragni and James Rado (words) and Galt MacDermot (music)?

Certainly, its sexual obsession, especially in the first half, seemed always puerile and sometimes squirmingly embarrassing. I was certainly not surprised, after hearing a range of bedtime activities bluntly described, when the couple in front of me quietly left with their pre-teen daughters.

They need not have feared the celebrated full-cast strip-off that closed the act. This took place in light so dim that the players, for all we knew, might have been going the whole hog (though probably not!).

The show was thrice banned by the Lord Chamberlain. “It extols dirtiness, anti-establishment views, homosexuality and free love, and drug-taking,” he said.

All these proved significant selling points when – the court official’s censorship role having ended – Hair swiftly came to the West End.

Today, as I say, it seems so dated as at times to be almost comic, especially in a range of characters who all present – “Do your own thing in your own time” –as caricatures of the drippy hippy.

In truth, though, these were the paradigms for a new youth movement here, even if Britain’s hippies were primarily of the weekend variety.

The focus of the plot – if such there could be said to be – is the receipt by one of the New York commune’s number of draft papers summoning him for service in Vietnam. Will Claude (Paul Wilkins) respond to the order – doing what his parents and Uncle Sam expect? Or will he go along with the mores of the‘tribe’ and put the document to the flames?

For the rest, the action is merely – merely! – a series of couplings, straight and gay, involving these not especially appealing characters.

The most in-yer-face in his strutting sexuality is the strapping Berger, portrayed by Jake Quickenden with a voice as powerful as his physique.

The other players are all gifted vocally too, with especially good work from Daisy Wood-Davis (Sheila) and Aiesha Pease (Dionne),

Galt MacDermot indeed supplied great tunes, especially in the show’s famous numbers Ain’t Got No, a big hit for Nina Simone, Aquarius, and the wonderful Let the Sun Shine In, which the Fifth Dimension took into the charts.

The climactic delivery of the last was magnificently achieved, the great ‘catch’ in its melody subtly hinted at before its amazing full-throated delivery of it by the whole cast.

It brought tears to the eyes of this old (weekend) hippy. 4/5