By John Wilson
Lent Week 8
In the centennial year of the 1917 Battle of Passchendaele the Corpus Playroom presents John Wilson’s classic, ‘Hamp’. Amidst the horror of World War I, Private Hamp, a nonentity whose undistinguished simplicity borders on simple-mindedness, has been plucked from the grime of a Lancashire mill town and flung down in the bloodsoaked mud of Passchendaele. But when one day Hamp scrambles out of a shell hole and walks away from battle, the Army finds itself compelled to notice his existence. He is court-martialled for desertion in the face of the enemy. Is everyone too preoccupied with the war to trouble about his 'insignificant crime’, as Hamp reassures himself, or will he pay the ultimate price?
This poignant play sheds light on what for many years has been a taboo subject in discussions of the First World War: the treatment of deserters. Despite first being performed in 1964, 'Hamp' still raises questions over the meaning of heroism & cowardice in the hell of war.