wipers head

Wipers

B2 Stage

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

*****

SET in Ypres, Belgium, in October 1914 this emotionally charged play written masterfully by Ishy Din and directed artfully by Suba Das grabs the audience’s attention from the outset.

The open set, a huge old barn, with its skeleton of tall beams and littered with interesting pieces of farming paraphernalia, calmly engages the audThomasience before being thrown firmly into the pursuing action by a sudden explosion of gunfire.

The dark threatening corners become apparent and the smell of constant danger delivers the tension and atmospheric feeling to perfection.

The play is inspired by a true story of the First Battle of Ypres (or Wipers as it became known to British troops) and tells the story of a group of Asian soldiers and a British Army officer thrown together as they seek refuge from the heat of battle.

In the distance the sound of gunfire can be heard. As the story unfolds we discover that this is an Indian soldier holding off the enemy troops single-handedly. That soldier is Khudadad Khan, the first non- British person to receive the Victoria Cross.

 Jassa Ahluwalia  as Thomas. Pictures: Pamela Raith

We never meet the brave and revered Khudadad, but his story is cleverly told through the other characters, Sadiq (Simon Rivers), Thomas (Jassa Ahluwalia) AD (Sartaj Garewal) and Ayub (Waleed Akhtar) .

All four have stories of their own which are told against a backdrop of cultural and class differences, ignorance, fear, anger, tension and ultimately brotherhood and comradery. It is impossible to single out any of these actors, they each bring their roles to life with strong, outstanding performances full of palpable emotion.

There is a clever use of dialect and accent which gives the suggestion of sections being spoken in Punjabi, with the Asian soldiers switching quickly and convincingly between a stilted English accent when speaking ‘English’ and a more regional accent when speaking ‘Punjabi’.

Although this is a highly charged emotional drama, it is not short of humour. There is a delightful scene where non English speaking AD (Garewal) is cooking daal (using his bayonet as a kitchen knife) whilst non Punjabi speaking Thomas (Ahluwalia) attempts to assist. Not only does it break the tension with humour but also a mouth-watering aroma wafting into the audience.

Full of little known historical facts, this play is indeed a masterclass of storytelling, powerful acting, and attention to detail. It is a genuine team effort and every member of the production has excelled. The effects, the lighting, the sound, the direction, the script, the staging, the costume all make this play what it is – superb. Highly recommended.  To 21-05-16.

Rosemary Manjunath and Elizabeth Smith

12-05-16 

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