Poppies

A new musical set at the beginning of the First World War. Think you’ve seen it all before? Think again. Music Box Theatre has succeeded in capitalising on previously untapped perspectives while combining these with stunningly original music and performances of an all-round vibrancy from six actor-musicians.

This charming production can and will get better and better... I can only exhort you to see this company and this show

Lasting only an hour, the ground covered by this new writing is substantial. Built around the premise of the breaking up of a rural folk music group, writer Laura Kaye Thomson addresses the impact of the war on working class women, the reality of ordinary men being catapulted into military situations far beyond their previous experience and the hazy moral conclusions to be drawn during a time which intrinsically alters every person involved. Pleasingly, the writing is so much more than simply a device for stitching songs together as is often the case with new musicals – here the dialogue sounds real and the mirroring of particularly symbolic lines by different characters ties them together with beautiful simplicity.

It is indeed an hour that flies by as our emotions are taken to and fro by the truthful characterisation of each cast member. There are soaring highlights throughout the piece. The gutsy number Working Class Women, featuring pitch-perfect vocals, showcases the respective strengths of the performers and of the characters which are refreshingly well-drawn so as to undergo development at least on a par with the men.Likewise, the male harmonies as they sing I will ride with His Majesty’s men are stirring, and as they are joined by strobing lights and the rest of the cast there is a moment of pure theatricality which created goose-bumps for at least one member of the audience! These aside, the burgeoning love interest between Leonard (Christopher Davidson) and Ada (Katie Lambert) held the narrative together – her final demonstration of loving emotion is testament to Lambert’s acting ability. Thomson herself, playing May, firmly underpins her credentials as one to track in the future as her rendition of the emotional linchpin Love Me engages with the meaning of every wordtoreveal both a delicacy and extraordinary inner strength.

This charming production can and will get better and better and it is only my desire to see it reach its full potential that prevents me from awarding five stars immediately. I can only exhort you to see this company and this show – I will be striving to return before the end of the run if I can. 

Reviews by Joshua Clarke

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

August, 1914. A young folk band are about to embark on the biggest adventure of their lives. Forced to separate, they discover that their music might just be what keeps them together, and alive. An immensely powerful, musically uplifting piece of new writing, set in one of the darkest periods of humanity’s history. Poppies serves to remind us that life, friendship and beauty still exist and grow in even the bloodiest soil.

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