Previewed 21 March 2017, Opened 27 March 2017, Closed 13 May 2017 at the Arts Theatre
Previewed 15 October 2018, Opened 18 October 2018, Closed 1 December 2018 at the Arts Theatre
The return of Ian Hislop and Nick Newman's The Wipers Times to London for a seven week season
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.
The true and extraordinary story of the satirical newspaper created in the mud and mayhem of the Somme.
Please note - age recommendation is 12 and above.
Directed by Caroline Leslie with designs by Dora Schweitzer, lighting by James Smith, music by Nick Green and sound by Steve Mayo.
This production returns to London following a run here at the Arts Theatre last year (previewed from 21 March 2017, opened on 27 March 2017 and closed on 13 May 2017).
When this production was seen here at the Arts Theatre in March 2017, Sam Marlowe in the Times said "it's a bright, bouncy comic strip of a show that raises a sincere salute to the soldiers for whom laughter was a vital psychological defence against the horrors and privations of the conflict, and the onslaught of bombs, guns and gas... Ian Hislop and Nick Newman's script makes it clear that the journal's humour was defiantly subversive - not least when its ribaldry came at the expense of the top brass... And even - perhaps especially - at its silliest, the play has a respect for its subject matter that is deadly serious, and decidedly affecting." Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times explained that "the result is an affectionate and affecting celebration of the British capacity for waggishness in the face of disaster... But it's also very enjoyable, relishing the banter between the men... And, in the end, for all the banter, there is both seriousness and sadness to this play, and a touching respect for men who, surrounded by hell, had the guts to laugh about it." Neil Norman in the Daily Express wrote that "Ian Hislop and Nick Newman's play is an honourable enterprise. It tells the true story of a handful of soldiers in the First World War who published a satirical newspaper from the trenches in Ypres in France... The Wipers Times is more of an affectionate tribute to the newspaper than a fully fledged play and in this production its music hall elements are ramped up to offer respite from the whizz bangs and mud of trench warfare." Fiona Mountford in the London Evening Standard thought that "Ian Hislop and Nick Newman have crafted a weak stage piece that limps lamely to the finish line. For a work about a satirical newspaper, it is also remarkably mirth-free... Between the too-short scenes of Caroline Leslie's uneasy production come skits and songs which are, to put it kindly, hard work... Disappointing."
"The year is 1916 and, while under bombardment from the 'Huns', men from the 24th Division of the Sherwood Foresters find an old printing press in Ypres, known as Wipers by the Tommies. An enterprising idea by the charismatic Captain Fred Roberts (the wonderful James Dutton) spawns The Wipers Times, a satirical trench gazette designed to stave othe horrors of the war. Ian Hislop and Nick Newman's stage play, directed by Caroline Leslie, dresses the story with an infectious charm that captures the British stiff-upper-lip attitude, complete with jazzy music-hall numbers, while paying homage to the black humour of the paper's fake ads and sarcastic commentary on the farcical British leadership. Roberts and his wry right-hand man, Lieutenant Jack Pearson (George Kemp), make an electric comic pairing, and the rest of the cast perform with gusto. But the scene changes can be clunky, and the more animated numbers have a tendency to run away with themselves." The Sunday Times
"This tells the extraordinary 100-year-old story of the satirical newspaper The Wipers Times, printed on a salvaged press by Tommies in World War I at Ypres. Each issue was stuffed with spoof items, groaning puns and a wholesale lack of due respect for high command. It offered medical advice - 'Are you suffering from optimism?' - put a ban on gloomy war poetry and took up the top brass's obsession with attacking by asking its readers: 'Are you offensive enough?'... A tribute to the publication that made the Tommies chuckle in the teeth of hell, this touching show is a laugh a minute. Or to quote the paper after a heavy chlorine attack: 'It's a gas!' The Mail on Sunday
The Wipers Times in London at the Arts Theatre previewed from 15 October 2018, opened on 18 October 2018 and closed on 1 December 2018