Richmond Theatre – until 30 September. Reviewed by Jess Brady
Following a successful stint in London’s West End, The Wipers Times is hitting local theatres on a UK tour. Based on the true story during WW1 of the 24th Division Sherwood Foresters, led by Captain Fred Roberts when they find an old printing press in the bombed out ruins of Ypres, or as it was pronounced amongst the Tommie’s, Wipers. Aided by their civvy- street printer Sergeant, Roberts and his lieutenant Jack Pearson decided to use the printer to create their own newspaper from the front line.
This was not to be an ordinary account of life on the front line but more a journal of jokes relating to the life of a soldier at war, poking fun at the high command and a salute to fallen comrades as well as spoof advertisements which proved to be a huge hit amongst the troops. The Wipers Times was edited on the front line and produced a remarkable 23 issues from 1916 till the end of the war.
The Wipers Times show is a comical and at times very poignant look at the story of how the paper was created, along with all the trials and tribulations that came with fighting one of the bloodiest Wars ever known. The script is excellently written by Nick Newman and Ian Hislop and carries their sense of humour throughout whilst portraying a wonderful and important period of history we should never forget. The through line of the story and frequent sketch like moments representing articles or advertisements created a fantastic energy and uplifted your spirits amongst the severity of the real matter at hand, which of course was the desired effect for the Troops at the time.
The cast are magnificent, playing wonderfully as individuals in their roles but most impressive in their ensemble moments and break out sketches. Full of energy and humour, it’s difficult to contain laughter throughout and it is quite simply a joy to watch such a talented cast. Each scene was completely seamless with the use of song and movement that enhanced the story further.
The Wipers Times is something that needs to be seen as it recognises an important moment in British history which is forgotten. The men who fought a gruesome battle and also remained positive enough to bring a moment of joy with a Newspaper deserve to be remembered and this show highlights it beautifully. Go and see The Wipers Times at The Richmond Theatre 25th-30th September.