The Wipers Times, Birmingham Rep
In 1916 whilst stationed in the front-line in Ypres Belgium, a group of soldiers from the 12th battalion, Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire regiment) came across an old printing press, during a routine patrol. Sargent Tyler, a printer by trade, salvaged the press and the decision was made by Captain Roberts and Lieutenant Pearson to create a publication that would be circulated amongst the front-line soldiers that captured the black humour, often associated with those in life threatening situations.
The Wipers Times (Ypres was referred to as Wipers by the British troops) was a satirical journal containing a mixture of jokes, poems, cartoons, skits and spoof adverts which ran for two years and was produced under harrowing conditions including heavy bombardment.
Using material from the original pages of the Wipers Times, (which for me added to the reality of this production as I felt I was being directly spoken to by its authors), writers Ian Hislop and Nick Newman have created an authentic piece of theatre that is both touching and witty.
Dora Schweitzer’s set of raised platforms and basic props, in addition to the sound of sporadic gunfire, exploding shells and realistic World War One uniforms transports the viewer immediately into the front-line of World War One in this fast paced production directed by Caroline Leslie.
The songs in the production were written by Nick Green in the style of the 1900’s with satirical lyrics and were delivered in a comedic music hall style. I felt that the songs were extremely effective in lightening the mood of the viewer throughout the production, some of the scenes were very moving and reduced me to tears.
This is a very professional, talented cast who all worked effectively with each other to recreate the camaraderie and bravery of these remarkable men. The production left me with nothing but respect and admiration for this group of soldiers who in such terrible conditions still had the courage to laugh at their own circumstances.
The Wipers Times is at the Birmingham Rep from the 8th – 13th October before moving on to the Arts Theatre in London from the 16th October to 1st December.
We say: “The Wipers Times is an authentic piece of theatre that is both touching and witty. A must see!”