A better idea on paper than stage

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The First World War is no easy tale to tell when so many have been told before in so many ways.

But this play seemed to strike an untapped vein of history – a satirical newspaper which thrived in the harsh conditions of the trenches. Co-written by Private Eye editor Ian Hislop and long-time collaborator Nick Newman, this was clearly a topic close to their hearts. And while it was visually interesting and funny, their proximity to the subject blinded their editing eye to a play which was too long, too repetitive and too self-indulgent.

Unfortunately, no amount of jokes or creative flourishes like the live re-enactments of the paper could resuscitate the flatlining plot.

It repeated itself over and over – another paper gets published, the war continues, another edition gets published, and so on. The Wipers Times was meant to break the monotony of soldiers’ lives, but sadly the play had the opposite effect. I was crying out for some action.

To give the cast their credit, this play was delivered with energy, pathos, comic timing and lots of heart without it becoming sappy.

But I couldn’t escape the irony that this concept was much better on paper than it was in action.

Until November 25.

JAMES BUTLER