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Review: The Wipers Times, at Arts Theatre

Triumphs and tragedy are expertly navigated in play that tells the true story of a satirical newspaper created by soldiers in the First World War

01 November, 2018 — By Catherine Usher

Chris Levens and Kevin Brewer in The Wipers Times. Photo: Kirsten McTernan

SHARING a similarly entertaining combination of humour and poignancy as was found in the 1989 comedy Blackadder Goes Forth, The Wipers Times highlights the key roles that camaraderie and comedy played in the trenches.

Written by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman, the play tells the true story of a satirical newspaper created by soldiers at the Front during the First World War.

Although the men are somewhat divided along crude class distinctions, they gravitate towards kindred spirits in terms of temperament. So even though Captain Roberts (James Dutton) rather arrogantly declares himself the natural editor of the paper, he’s keen to work with like-minded men to create a publication that they can all be proud of.

James Dutton and George Kemp. Photo: Philip Tull

As the snivelling, pen-pushing Lieutenant Colonel Howfield, who is desperate to close the paper down, Sam Ducane is highly impressive. Saddled with an unfortunate voice and a disagreeable demeanour, he really has fun with the odiousness of Howfield’s character.

How Brits rely on comedy in the face of adversity is thoroughly explored throughout the play, with the soldiers seemingly having an unlimited amount of adversity to deal with.

Conveying how The Wipers Times readership is effectively abandoned to perish on the Front by the powers that be, among all the excitement and laughter within the show runs a distinct tone of desperation and futility. The cast works expertly to navigate the scenes of triumphs and tragedy, bringing to life an uplifting episode of an otherwise harrowing time.

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