Theatre in Wales

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When war can be fun!

The Wipers Times

Trademark Touring and Watermill Theatre , New Theatre Cardiff , September-13-17
The Wipers Times by Trademark Touring and Watermill Theatre Based on a true story, Ian Hislop and Nick Newman take us back into the muck and bullets of the First World War. There’s a lot of gunfire in the background and one of our main protagonists is sent home to recover from a gas attack. But there are other sides to war. We are dug in with The ‘Sherwood Foresters’ led by their captain Fred Roberts and his good friend Lieutenant Jack Pearson. This is very much an ensemble production and all the cast capture the military style very well.

On a recce around the town of Ypres the lads discover an ancient printing press. Sergeant Tyler used to work in the newspaper industry, he decides he can get it going again and this extraordinary ‘newspaper’ is born. ‘Tommie’ can’t get his tongue around these peculiar French words, Ypres is known among them as Wipers thus The Wiper Times and what a great time they have with it

The surrealism of this process in the production is added to by snatches of Old Time Music Hall on a red carpeted stage and some stand-up at the back, humour that just about relates to the goings on in this curious human story.

It eventually secured a pretty good circulation around the trenches. It lasted for nearly two years but this was no conventional newspaper, the satire, the comic poems, the lampooning of Top Brass and extraordinary humour it contains lifted the spirits of all the fighting men.; it was an extraordinary recognition of the strength of the human spirit in the face of great adversity.

All the cast masters the difficult job of being at war one moment then quickly turning to the delights of subversion the next. Kevin Brewer, Clio Davies, Sam Ducane, James Dutton, George Kemp, Chris Levens, Dan Mersh, Jake Morgan, Joseph Reed and Emilia Williams also bring us some very moving moments as well as creating the smell of war. They also throw in some well-executed song and dance.

There were a few times when things got a bit flat and it was difficult to hear. Nevertheless the sell out audience was totally thrilled and captivated, particularly by the great, good fun set out before them.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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