Review: The Wipers Times, by Nick Newman and Ian Hislop, The New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, Tuesday November 8

The Wipers Times by Ian Hislop and Nick Neman is being staged at the New Wolsey Theatre. L to R: Ja

The Wipers Times by Ian Hislop and Nick Neman is being staged at the New Wolsey Theatre. L to R: James Dutton, George Kemp, Kevin Brewer, Peter Losasso, Jake Morgan, Sam Ducane, Dan Tetsell - Credit: Archant

This play’s first incarnation was as a film – of the same name – and is also written by Nick Newman and Ian Hislop, of Private Eye fame.

It tells the story of Captain Fred Roberts who, in partnership with his Lieutenant Jack Pearson, ‘requisitions’ a printer from a bomb-ridden building in the middle of a First World War zone in Belgium.

He sets about improving the morale of the British troops by printing the aforementioned Wipers Times – Wipers being the average Tommie’s name for Ypres.

They keep up production in the most difficult of circumstances in the middle of the trenches and survive the loss of the printer (by requisitioning another) to keep going right until the cessation of hostilities.

It is not surprising to find that Messrs Hislop and Newman are involved with the project as the humour in the Eye owes much to the tradition of the Wipers Times; irreverent and cocking a snook at virtually everybody and everything, but particularly those in authority.

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So the General Staff, safely ensconced miles away from the action, are one particular target; newspapers also come in for a good deal of flak, particularly the Daily Mail.

But the play, which is pretty faithful to the TV film, never forgets the horrors of war.

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The end of the first act, when the men go over the top, is poignantly reminiscent of the final scene in Blackadder Goes Forth.

James Dutton, as Roberts, and George Kemp, as Pearson, make a fine double act. Dan Tetsell is a fine Sergeant Tyler, the man with the printing expertise from civvie street; he is also equally accomplished as General Mitford, the senior officer who appreciates the efforts of the Wipers’ Times staff. And Peter Lossaso, as Dodd, makes an excellent archetypal British Tommie in the manner of Blackadder’s Baldric.

The one problem, which is down to logistics, is that fact that with a cast of just eight, it does occasionally jar when actors turn up in so many different roles.

But overall this is a marvellous production, full of jokes, songs and even dances which, given the appalling backdrop against which it is played out, reflects great credit on everyone involved.

Mike Cracknell

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