Trial by Laughter

Ian Hislop and Nick Newman’s acclaimed BBC Radio 4 drama ‘Trial by Laughter’ brought to life on stage.

credit Philip Tull

After the sell-out success of The Wipers Times in the West End and across the country, Ian Hislop and Nick Newman have once again taken inspiration from real life events for their new play Trial by Laughter, based on their critically acclaimed original BBC Radio 4 drama of the same name. Trial by Laughter will play at The Lowry from Tuesday 29th January until Saturday 2nd February 2019.



credit Philip Tull

In 1817 bookseller, publisher and satirist William Hone stood trial for parodying religion, the despotic government and the libidinous monarchy. The only crime he had committed was to be funny. In 2018, the satirists Ian Hislop and Nick Newman rediscover this forgotten hero of free speech and ask if just over two hundred years later our press has any greater freedom.

credit Philip Tull

Satirist, writer and journalist Ian Hislop has been the editor of Private Eye since 1986. He has frequently appeared on Question Time (BBC One), and since 1990 has been team captain on BBC’s Have I Got News for You. At Private Eye he works with life-long friend Nick Newman, an award-winning cartoonist and writer, who alongside his role at Private Eye, has been pocket cartoonist for The Sunday Times since 1989. As a scriptwriting duo, Ian and Nick’s work includes five years on Spitting Image (ITV), Harry Enfield and Chums (BBC Two), and My Dad’s the Prime Minister (BBC One), as well as the film A Bunch of Amateurs and The Wipers Times, which won the Broadcast Press Guild Award for single drama, and was nominated for a BAFTA. Trial by Laughter is Ian and Nick’s third play to be co-produced with The Watermill Theatre and Trademark, following adaptations of A Bunch of Amateurs and The Wipers Times.


Ian Hislop and Nick Newman said:
“In an age of ‘fake news’ and increased censorship, free speech and press freedom are still under threat as they were 200 years ago when William Hone took on the might of Royalty and a bullying Tory government. Hone dared to ask ‘Is laughter treason?’ – raising issues which are as relevant now as they were then. It’s a tale of lawyers, lechers and libel – with added sedition and blasphemy. It is immensely exciting to bring this world to life on stage, with this funny, inspiring and true story of a satirical David versus Goliath.”

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