WIPERS TIMES – Northcott Theatre, Exeter


4****

10 September 2018

The story of the newspaper produced in the trenches and the ruins of Ypres in the First World War is just the most perfect scenario for a play. A low-key film of a few years ago it is ideal for the stage and the two Private Eye writers have produced a ‘magazine-style’ piece of theatre; the main story punctuated by song, dance and short comic sketches.

The script, littered with digs at the press (especially The Daily Mail), military authority and the futility of war is both very funny and moving. There is no attempt to avoid a certain amount of the realities of the dreadful events which are spoken of effectively and shown on archive film footage. Although I felt the play sagged a couple of times, this was the writing rather than the production which fairly rolls along with choreographed scene changes accompanied by singing which worked a treat.

The set – a bombed out building in Ypres – was a mass of wooden boxes, a few chairs, tables and other props (a special mention for the splendid printing press which kicks off the Wipers Times) is always interesting as is the ‘stage’ set above the main action – complete with barbed wire decorated with fairy lights. The ‘adverts’ and short vignettes within the story, performed on this upper area, were very funny, telling and clever. The lighting and sound were so effective – there was no holding back on the volume button for the explosions and blasts! All complimented by excellent use of evocative music.

The cast of 10 were universally good, throwing themselves into their characters – some playing a number of parts – and they very effectively and sensitively portrayed the various facets of The Great War. 

The Wipers Times was very much a forerunner of Private Eye and although the duo of Captain Roberts and Lieutenant Pearson who came up with the weeze, didn’t continue as writers in Civvy Street, they offered up a brand of humour which lives on today.

A witty, moving and fascinating bite of our history and a super piece of theatre.


CAST & CREATIVES

BARNES – AMAR AGGOUN

HENDERSON – KEVIN BREWER

MADAME FIFI – CLIO DAVIES

LIEUTENANT COLONEL HOWFIELD – SAM DUCANE

CAPTAIN ROBERTS – JAMES DUTTON

LIEUTENANT PEARSON – GEORGE KEMP

DODD – CHRIS LEVENS

SERGEANT TYLER – DAN MERSH

SMITH – JOSEPH REED

KATE ROBERTS – EMILIA WILLIAMS


WRITERS – IAN HISLOP & NICK NEWMAN

DIRECTOR – CAROLINE LESLIE

DESIGNER – DORA SCHWEITZER

LIGHTING DESIGNER – JAMES SMITH

SOUND DESIGNER – STEVE MAYO

COMPOSER – NICK GREEN

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