The Wipers Times, New Wolsley Theatre, Ipswich. November 2016
Getting to and from Ipswich proved nearly as time consuming and awkward as getting to London but the journey was totally worth it.
This new World War One play from satirists Hislop and Newman could so easily have been over played and the jokes too contemporary, or overly sentimental but the duo managed to pull off the near impossible - a comedy about World War One that was balanced.
The original Wipers Times was a newspaper written and published by soldiers serving in the Trenches and was devised as an antidote to the inaccuracies and propaganda stories published in the mainstream media - and it is this where it would have been so easy to pepper the play with modern references.
The play tells the story of the men behind the paper as well as bringing to life some of the sketches from the paper in a clever way using Vaudeville, projections and a lot of very quick costume changes. Some of the jokes were terrible but on looking at my facsimile copy of the Wipers Times I see that they were all lifted from the original. The few comments about media inaccuracies also came straight from the original!
I enjoyed this greatly but my one criticism was that I found the set / scenery to be too fussy. The scene changes were well done and incorporated more original material from the newspapers but there were just too many of them and too much furniture moved each time for my taste.
What struck me the most was how much Oh! What a Lovely War and Blackadder Goes Forth owed to the papers - the humour in both of these, seen as edgy and challenging, came straight from the Wipers Times. There were moment of poignancy and sadness, and the gas attack was breath taking (pun intended) and I found this a balanced and enjoyable play. It isn't in the same league as Journey's End but I do hope that this gets a transfer or longer run somewhere as I think that the play is much better than the previous television documentary.