Comradeship across cultures

The play is inspired by the story of Khuddadad Khan. Picture: Pamela Raith Photography
The play is inspired by the story of Khuddadad Khan. Picture: Pamela Raith Photography

Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre is presenting the UK premiere of a play honouring the contribution of South Asian soldiers in the First World War.

Wipers is inspired by the story of Khuddadad Khan, the first South Asian soldier to be awarded a Victoria Cross for his extraordinary bravery at the First Battle of Ypres.

A co-production between Leicester Curve, the Belgrade Theatre and Watford Palace, Wipers will visit B2 from Thursday May 12 to Saturday May 21.

Wipers is set in October 1914 when the British forces, bolstered by huge numbers of volunteer soldiers from across the Empire, suffered huge casualties at Ypres, in one of the first bloody battles of the war, As a sole survivor on the battlefield holds off the advancing enemy troops, a group of South Asian and British soldiers seek refuge in an abandoned barn. Over the course of a single night, this group of men must confront their fears and find a way to come together if they are to survive.

Director Suba Das said: “One of the things we can be really proud of here in the UK is our long-tradition of respecting and celebrating diversity.

“I think it’s important that audiences understand that this tradition of collaboration goes back a long way, before 1914 even. Yes, that history isn’t without its complexities. Yes, there are aspects of that history which should be celebrated and others that we would rather forget but ultimately, it’s what made Britain the country it is today. That’s what we want people to take away from the show - especially young audiences - that extraordinary things happen when people come together.

“Not far into my research into the period, I discovered that over a million South Asian men volunteered to join the British Army during the First World War. What astonished me even more was that, as a nationality, South Asians received one of the highest percentages of Victoria Crosses during the conflict.”

Tickets start at £10.25. Call 024 7655 3055 or visit www.belgrade.co.uk to book.