Ian Hislop and Nick Newman return with new play Trial by Laughter

The follow up to The Wipers Times in the West End and across the country, Trial by Laughter is based on their critically acclaimed original BBC Radio 4 drama of the same nameIan Hislop and Nick Newman have once again taken inspiration from real life events for their new play. The production will be developed with The Watermill Theatre before playing at the venue for six weeks from 17th September – 27th October 2018. Following this, it will be heading on a UK tour visiting Guildford, Ipswich, Cheltenham and Brighton, with further venues to be announced.

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.

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 alongside 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 BAFTATrial By Laughter is Ian and Nick’s third play to be developed with The Watermill Theatre, with an adaptation of A Bunch of Amateurs and The Wipers Times playing there in the last few years.

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.”


Trial By Laughter is a Trademark Touring and Watermill Theatre production and is directed by Caroline Leslie.

Monday 17th September – Saturday 27th October                                      

Watermill Theatre, Newbury

Monday 29th October – Saturday 3rd November                                        

Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford

Monday 5th November – Saturday 10th November                                   

 The New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich

Monday 12th November – Saturday 17th November                                  

Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham

Monday 19th November – Saturday 24th November                   

 Theatre Royal,Brighton

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