Review by: Paul Towers, 24 September 2018
The Wipers Times by Ian Hislop & Nick Newman
A Trademark Touring & Watermill Theatre production
Curve – 24 – 29 September 2018
“a wonderfully comic account of the genesis of satirical publishing.”
Gallows humour is the laughs that come from dire circumstances. Funeral Directors are adept at defusing the sadness of their profession with laughter. So, too, are soldiers, especially those on the battlefield, as was expertly portrayed by the film M*A*S*H.
The Wipers Times is a perfect example of humour being used to offset the horrors of the first world war and the task of surviving another day.
Chancing upon an old manual printing press in amongst the bombed out buildings of Ypres, Fred Roberts and Jack Pierson, by chance having the services of ex printer Tyler to hand, resolve to utilise the dark humour of their situation and produce a morale boosting newspaper; an outlet for their emotions and a chance to satirise the high command.
Often written in those dark, wet nights between shellings and edited under fire, the prodigious output of the contributors was deemed by the authorities to be subversive and undermining of the war effort. Various commands to shut the paper down were ignored or circumvented and it continued throughout the war.
Ian Hislop and Nick Newman have written a wonderfully comic account of the genesis of satirical publishing. An hilarious mix of narrative, songs and dancing take us through the almost non-stop barrage of gunfire as the paper is compiled.
The Wipers Times paper got a fleeting name-check in the film Oh What A Lovely War and the favour is returned with fantasy sequences in homage to that show.
The wonderful programme on sale at Curve is created as a spoof copy of The Wipers Times with satirical poems, advertisements and stories.
A tight cast of 10 are lead by James Dutton and George Kemp as Roberts & Pierson. The set, designed by Dora Schweitzer, is effectively complimented by the sound and lighting effects of Steve Mayo and James Smith to recreate the appalling conditions of a Ypres trench.
The Wipers Times is on tour until December
Full details on www.wiperstimesplay.co.uk
First published on Western Gazette