Michael Palin (R 1957-61) is returning to television drama to star in the story of how British soldiers in the First World War trenches produced and published their own satirical newspaper.
When Captain Fred Roberts, of the 12th Battalion Sherwood Foresters, discovered a printing press in the ruins of Ypres, Belgium in 1916, he decided to publish a satirical magazine called The Wipers Times – 'Wipers' being army slang for Ypres. Full of gallows humour, The Wipers Times was poignant, subversive and very funny. Produced literally under enemy fire and defying both authority and gas attacks, the magazine proved a huge success with the troops on the Western Front. It was, above all, a tribute to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming adversity.
Just like the original, this new history drama will be filled with jokes, spoofs and amazing examples of courage behind the laughs.
This is an extract from one of the magazines:
'We regret to announce that an insidious disease is affecting the Division, and the result is a hurricane of poetry. Subalterns have been seen with a notebook in one hand, and bombs in the other absently walking near the wire in deep communication with their muse. Even Quartermasters with “books, note, one” and “pencil, copying” break into song while arguing the point re “boots. gum, thigh”. The Editor would be obliged if a few of the poets would break into prose as the paper cannot live by poems alone.'
This is Michael's first acting role since 1991 when he played a school headteacher, intimidated by a newly-elected city council leader, in Alan Bleasdale's 'GBH'.
Earlier this year, he revealed in a BAFTA interview that he would consider this new role as one of the highlights of his career.