Review: The Muddy Choir (the Dukes)


An explosion is almost certainly a moment away in this First World War play. There have been countless numbers of interpretations of the First World War while The Muddy Choir isn’t radically different a light-hearted fresh perspective is given, focusing around the friendship on the battlefield and the power of music in trying times.

The Muddy Choir tells the story of three young boys Will, Robbie and Jumbo who all served in the First World War. They find themselves in a Flanders observation post and through a heartfelt conversation start singing. Their singing however happens to be heard by German soldiers who use it as a target for their gunfire. The British commanders then give them an ultimatum, either go to court for their behavior or sing and act as bait to distract the Germans whilst the British launch an attack from a different direction.

The play is set over a number of days, beginning with the comical friendship between the trio that feels authentic and true. Each scene of the play is full of singing amongst the explosions and gunfire. Jumbo is the most loveable character, the most innocent and vulnerable of them all, he misses his mother and is longing for home. He is constantly singing as he uses it as a way of reminding himself of home and happier time. Jumbo brings home the reality of the war, which involved many soldiers who were in fact just young boys. Will is the Lance Corporal who takes responsibility in ensuring him and the boys stay safe, always desperate to do anything he can to get them out alive. Robbie is the middleman of the trio, creating the balance between Jumbo’s childlike behavior and Will’s seriousness. He is energetic and humorous due to him being conscious that death is always lurking.

The focus of the play is clearly the trio and this is portrayed with a very minimal set. The dialogue and plot also give the impressive of impending danger, reminding the audience that the sudden horrors of war are never far away. However, the play was dreary at times. The humanity of Will, Robbie and Jumbo stays prominent throughout the play, allowing the audience to get into their arguments and conversations almost forgetting that they are on a battlefield. Sound and lighting are used very effectively to create tension where necessary. After each scene the lights fall and rise again on the boys in the same area. The set was rather effective although very basic, showing that a play can still be enjoyable with a small set.

A short but effective, heart-warming play, The Muddy Choir gives an insight into a small aspect of the First World War that is generally overlooked, an alternative side to countless number of plays about the First World War. It is thought evoking and delicately makes one realize the magnitude of war by portraying innocent boys, who used music as a refuge and an outlet for their feelings.

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