New Wimbledon Theatre, Wimbledon – until 12th November 2022
Reviewed by Bobbi Fenton
No Mans Land. Christmas. 1914. The worlds most famous game of football to ever take place. And a woman whose story was untold for many many years.
Don’t Shoot the Meistersinger is the incredibly funny, and often moving, story of the English soldiers and the German soldiers putting aside their differences for a festive game of football. Joseph Aylward, Alfie Noble, and Finn Pile do an excellent job of portraying three English soldiers and three German soldiers through multirole, showing a clear comparison between both sides, and how despite the war, they aren’t all that different after all. Lance Corporal Arthur Ramsbotham (Joseph Aylward) and Private Joe Bryce (Alfie Noble) welcome new recruit Private Ernie Potter (Finn Pile) to the English front line, as on the German side Hauptmann Sixtus (Joseph Aylward), Unteroffizer Hans Sachs (Alfie Noble), and Gemeiner Walther von Stolzing (Finn Pile) are in the exact same situation. However, on the English side happens to be a woman, Dorothy Lawrence (Mia Finnigan), a journalist who has managed to sneak onto the front line, steal a mans army uniform, and blend in with the other soldiers in order to try to get a true, real-life account of what it is like for the soldiers on the front line. This play does a brilliant job of telling this true story, and how she managed to get back to England where she was heavily censored, and includes a very moving monologue from Mia Finnigan. There are many moving moments within this play, however almost every single one is quickly shifted into a moment of hilarious comedy. A particular favourite reoccurring joke for me is Private Ernie Potter (Finn Pile) constantly arriving late for everything because of his father’s (Emily Littman) watch that never tells the right time which he eventually trades with a German soldier in return for a uniform button. Not to mention Emily Littman as Walther von Stolzing ‘s highly religious and modest girlfriend Eva writing increasingly erotic letters to him.
Even with the small cast, and the use of multirole, this play makes it very easy to imagine what the war was like for almost every single man that went to fight, dealing with fleas, their friends and brothers dying around them, and the dreaded meat pudding for Christmas dinner. Don’t Shoot the Meistersinger is an absolutely wonderful piece of historical theatre that should definitely not be missed.