Trial by laughter at the Lowry

Comedy writers Ian Hislop and Nick Newman’s latest play, Trial By Laughter, opens at The Lowry Theatre tonight.

The play tells the story of William Hone, a bookseller and cartoon publisher in 1817 who is on trial after being taken to court by the Regency government in an attempt to prevent jokes about the monarchy.

Talking about the themes behind the play, Newman said: “It’s a story about press freedom and free speech and a battle for freedom and free speech.

“I think we’d describe it as The Madness of King George meets A Few Good Men.”

Hislop, known for being the Editor of Private Eye, commented: “It’s a courtroom thriller but it’s a historical courtroom thriller with jokes, which means it’s three different genres in one for just one ticket price.”

Speaking about the inspiration behind the play, Newman said:

“We’d just finished doing The Wipers Times for BBC2, when we did the film of it, and the head of BBC2 Janice Hadlow sent us an email asking if we’d heard of William Hone. Janice is an expert on Regency history and has written books about it. We both said ‘Who?’ which is often a very good starting point for a story because we think ‘Well, if we don’t know anything about it let’s find out’.

“We started doing research and suddenly out came this amazing story about this amazing man – a complete nobody really but who took on the might of the government in a landmark case.”

It’s not the first time that Hislop and Newman have worked together, their 2017 UK tour of The Wipers Times received rave reviews. Talking about working together, Hislop said: “We write together, literally. We don’t send each other drafts and we physically work together in the same room. I suppose we try and make each other laugh; that’s the first thing. But we’ve known each other long enough to be able to say ‘That isn’t very good’ or ‘That’s a terrible suggestion’ and then just get on with it. There’s a sort of joint self-editing.”

Trial By Laughter will be at The Lowry from Tuesday 29 January until Saturday 2 February 2019.

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