The Wipers Times
New Theatre, Cardiff
Wednesday 13th September
After the Passchendaele commemorations, it has quickly become clear that we are well over three quarters through the WWI centenary. Most of it has remained solemn occasions and a teary eye is often commonplace. Here though is a case for more laughter and therefore more life giving.
Even tributes paid at Passchendaele saw the cast of The Wipers Times acting out extracts of the show. It appears as a love letter from Ian Hislop and Nick Newman to the soldiers and officers who were so triumphant about creating a newspaper in the trenches. You can almost feel the kisses on the script.
Hislop, as editor of Private Eye and frequent guest on Have I Got News For You, is the perfect advocate along with Newman to create this often funny, sometimes insightful glance at when humour is needed even in the darkest of hours. Some might have portrayed their actions as treasonous, others found it a vital element of moral in the trenches. The Germans only appeared to have songs to display their hatred of England, so what better way to parody them with comics and limericks?
I feel the play could have been even more funny, though there are some witty moments which make you have that sort of casual laugh, compared to a big belly laugh. Stabs at the Daily Mail, booze, snobbery and poetry are all targets here and it’s great to hear the remarks made about them. We only ever root for this merry gang who just want a newspaper to reflect their experience. Even the name is a remark made about what the paper would be sued for after reading…
The cast have a gun ho attitude that makes the play live for two hours. Some vaudeville numbers have seem trite and on the nose, pushing good taste (perhaps a nod to Oh! What A Lovely War). The misery of the situation is rarely examined here, as has so often been the case in countless works. This is a sort of Life Is Beautiful for the trenches. It’s not a revelation, but it makes for pretty decent theatre.
The the play itself mirrors the soldiers, in their attempt to make something of themselves in printed form. Those interested in WWI, history of the press and those who are partial to good humour should frequent The Wipers Times.
Witty, cheerful & a great encourager.
Rating: 3 stars
Photo Credit: Philip Toll
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