If any journalist knows the inside of a courtroom, Ian Hislop does. According to Wikileaks, he is ‘the most sued man in history’ – so, of course, it must be true. But true fact or fake news apart, the editor of Private Eye and long-serving team captain of BBC’s Have I Got News for You, knows a good story when he hears it. Which is how, along with co-writer and cartoonist Nick Newman, he came to create Trial By Laughter, coming soon to Milton Keynes Theatre.
Based on real life events it’s the story of bookseller, publisher and satirist William Hone who, in 1817, stood trial for parodying religion, the tyrannical government and the lecherous monarchy. The only crime he had committed was to be funny. In 2019, 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.
After the sell-out West End success of The Wipers Times, Hislop and Newman’s Trial by Laughter, based on their critically acclaimed original BBC Radio 4 drama, is a Trademark Touring and Watermill Theatre co-production.
“It’s a courtroom thriller” says Ian Hislop “but it’s a historical courtroom thriller with jokes, which means it’s three different genres in one for just one ticket price.”
Hone “set out to make the jury laugh” says Nick Newman. “He spoke for six-to-eight hours every day of the trials just producing more and more examples of stuff he thought would make people laugh - and they did. I think we’d describe it as The Madness Of King George meets A Few Good Men…”
“Meets Crown Court” says Ian.
Directed by Caroline Leslie, designed by Dora Schweitzer and composed by Nick Green, the cast includes Helena Antoniou, Jeremy Lloyd and Joseph Prowen as Hone.
Ian Hislop and Nick Newman will be conducting a free post-show Q & A at Milton Keynes Theatre after the performance on Monday, February 25. “It’s a great way of interacting with your audience” says Nick. “With the Q&As you get a bit of a discussion going and a bit of a debate.”
Ian adds “We want to know what the audience thinks really, what bits they’re interested in and whether they think we should still be worried about this sort of thing. Hopefully they’ll think we very much should be.”
Performances: Mon 25 Feb – Sat 2 Mar
Tickets: From £13*
Box Office: 0844 871 7652*
Groups Hotline: 0333 0095 939 Access Booking: 0800 912 697*
Online Booking: ATGTICKETS.COM/MiltonKeynes