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The Wipers Times by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman
September 17th - September 22nd
Ian Hislop and Nick Newman’s The Wipers Times tells the true and extraordinary story of a satirical newspaper created in the mud and mayhem of the Great War. Following a sell-out West End run and an appearance at the Passchendaele Centenary in Ypres, The Wipers Times comes to Malvern in Autumn 2018.
In a bombed out building during the First World War in the Belgian town of Ypres (mis-pronounced Wipers by British soldiers), two officers discover a printing press and create a newspaper for the troops. Far from being a sombre journal about life in the trenches, they produced a resolutely cheerful, subversive and very funny newspaper designed to lift the spirits of the men on the front line.
Defying enemy bombardment, gas attacks and the disapproval of many of the top Brass, The Wipers Times rolled off the press for two years and was an extraordinary tribute to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming adversity.
There will be a pre-show talk on Tuesday 18th September. Admission is free. To book please call the box office on 01684 892277.
Production photos by Kirsten McTernan
Choice Radio Worcester
It might be based on events which happened 100 years ago but The Wipers Times seems curiously up to date, certainly in terms of some of the themes it portrays. It is the sort of thing which, if you were not aware was based on true facts, would seem to be a quite a ludicrous story - a newspaper of sorts, written by amateurs and printed on very basic printing machinery, describing with humour and satire the events going on around them in the trenches, something which was popular with the other troops but which did not always go down well with the top brass who were amongst those being somewhat unsubtly criticised.
Written by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman, The Wipers Times (named after the town which, for some reason, the Belgians preferred to call Ypres…) is a part true/part dramatised story of soldiers out on the front line whilst their masters stay behind co-ordinating the theatre of war and basically keeping them in the dark. Performed by an ensemble of 10 actors, the play begins with the decision in 1916 by Captain Fred Roberts of the 24th Division of the Sherwood Foresters, aided by his Lieutenant Jack Pearson and a civvie-street printer, to create a paper which lasted until after the end of the war, producing an amazing 23 issues, not as a journal of record but more a journal of jokes. Or, as they said, like the Daily Mail but without the lies or like Punch but with jokes. In fact, there were a number of references which carry equal currency in today's climate.
Taking the mickey out of events and people whilst the bombs rained down, on one occasion smashing their beloved printer to smithereens, the play at times introduced other comedic elements such as the advertisements which they put into the paper (fake, obviously!) and various musical skits, including the very non-pc Ten Fat Germans (substitute green bottles…)
Poignant and timely, there are few families these days who parents/grandparents/great grandparents would not have been affected by the events in the Great War and it is very fitting that the story is now told live on stage (after already being a film) in its centenary when after the war itself, knowledge of the paper virtually disappeared without trace, being quietly and conveniently forgotten.
In the words of the play: "The war is not funny, Sir". "I've a feeling that may be the point". The Wipers Times manages to bring out the humour in situations where no humour should exist but where it is needed just to be able to survive…
Thoroughly enjoyed this play which was funny but also a great tribute to the men who endured the hell of the trenches during the war