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The Wipers Times

© Philip Tull

‘Tis the last production of 2016 before 3 months of Panto takes over The New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich, and the offering is The Wipers Times. A play that is based on a true story and the BBC film of the same name, that has been adapted for stage by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman; and is being presented by Trademark Films and The Watermill Theatre.

The story is set in Ypres, 1916; in the midst of World War I. The men of the front-line need a way to boost morale – and what better way than producing a satirical magazine? Captain Roberts and his team create The Wipers Times (after the army slang for Ypres); defying both authority and gas attacks, it quickly becomes a huge success among the troops on the Western Front.

Wartime stories may not appeal to everyone, as even I wasn’t sure. However, this one was rather different. While it did showcase the harsh and sad reality of war, it was handled with black comedy – through words, sketches, song, dance and audience participation. This type of comedy is something us Brits are seemingly fond of and was something I believe the troops needed, in order to regain a sense of sanity; but in all honesty much of the humour sailed over my head, yet it didn’t disengage me from the story. I guess I had the additional interest of having the perspective of working in publishing because much of the story feels very real, with the familiar pressures with the likes of deadlines and printing.

A highly talented cast of eight took you through the story, each playing equally funny men (and one woman playing multiple roles!). James Dutton (Captain Roberts) and George Kemp (Lieutenant Pearson) as the two leads held a great chemistry on a stage. Another notable performance for me was Peter Losasso (Dodd) who was the youngster of the troop and full of hilarious expressions.

As for the set, it was designed to look like the trench barricades, and the office quarters. Therefore it remained pretty much the same throughout, with subtle details changing or the use of projections to transition between locations, but it was impressive and fitting for the period. The costume was similar, with it remaining much the same yet being convincing for the period.

Overall, it was a great show that strayed from my usual go-to theatre; therefore proving you shouldn’t be afraid to see something different as you may just be surprised. While I may not have found it as funny as the rest of the audience, I still found it to be a highly enjoyable story and it ended on a very touching moment, that reiterated the importance of remembering those that fought, and those that lost lives in WWI (and WWII). All of which seems relevant with it being Remembrance Day on Sunday. The full audience and strong applause at the end just showcased that this was an enjoyable watch.

The Wipers Times runs at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich until Saturday 12th November. For more information or to book visit www.wolseytheatre.co.uk/the-wipers-times.