Trial By Laughter

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Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️

The name William Hone won’t mean that much to most people, which is crying shame. For back in the early 1817 this was a man who campaigned tirelessly for civil liberties, sought reform in the many lunatic asylums, and highlighted the miscarriages of justice that blighted the judicial system. In addition Hone was an investigative journalist, satirical commentator and publisher who along with his friend, George Cruikshank a political cartoonist lampooned the ruling class of the day: that being the Regency government.  So angered by Hone’s work the Prince Regent sought to have him prosecuted by any means possible.

So when it came to the story of William Hone, who better to tell it than Ian Hislop and Nick Newman. Both are champions of a free press, both have great form in sending up and holding to account politicians and world leaders through the magazine Private Eye. Newman is the cartoonist for the magazine and Hislop is the editor.  In addition Hislop is no stranger to a libel case having faced several down the years.  The two writers have reunited with director Caroline Leslie, with whom they worked with on their debut play The Wipers Times, to bring this intriguing story to the stage with their new production: Trial by Laughter.

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The play opens with the Prince Regent and his (alleged) mistresses angered by their depiction at the hands of Hone and Cruikshank, so enraged is he that he orders his government flunkies to prosecute Hone. Hone is charged with blasphemy and arrested, falsely imprisoned and denied legal assistance. With only the support of Cruikshank, and his wife, Sarah, Hone mounts a defence and against all odds wins the trail. This really is the beginning of Hone’s troubles as he faces three criminal trials in as many days, which could see him imprisoned or deported to Australia. With the Regency’s relentless pursuit and Hone’s health deteriorating is this really a battle he can truly win?

There is a lot to admire about this production: Joseph Prowen is on great form as William Hone, playing him with a twinkle-in-the-eye and a great deal of righteous optimism that is gradually beaten out of him as the trials progress. Dan Mersh (playing numerous roles) is equally fine as Hone’s tormentor; Justice Ellenborough who plagues his foe at every turn and cannot hide is distain or prejudices for Foe. Peter Losasso plays Cruikshank, with a cheeky swagger clearly relishing his pun filled part. Whilst Eva Scott is also strong as Hone’s long suffering wife, who in spite of all their trials and tribulations she never loses faith in her husband.

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Despite the subject matter being over 200 years old it relevance today cannot be understated as the play tackles such issues as freedom of speech and freedom of the press and measures how far governments and people of power will go to too stifle this, you only need to look at the recent murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi to see its relevance. It also tackles the weighty issue of what is fair game for a joke: politicians, religion, the ruling class, and when does a joke go too far and become offensive. These are clearly subject matters that Hislop and Newman feel passionately about and it shines through in their writing.

The production does have a few issues: there are some great gags in here which poke fun at modern day celebrity culture, even Prince Charles is on the receiving end of a roasting. Whilst the jokes come thick and fast, and are exceptionally crafted there is nothing here that will have you rolling in the isles, more a wry smile then a big belly laugh. Despite this being a trail there is little jeopardy for Hone and thus at times the more dramatic elements of the paly can feel a little flat.

Overall this a fascinating, entertaining tale that needs to be told and deserves its platform, it’s worth a watch but you can’t help feel there is something missing.

Trail by Laughter is on the Lowry until 2nd February, tickets available here.

 

Interview | Ian Hislop & Nick Newman | Trial By Laughter

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After the enormous success of The Wipers Times in both the West End and on it’s UK tour, celebrated writers Ian Hislop and Nick Newman have once again joined forces for their new piece of work Trial By Laughter.

This new production based on their critically acclaimed BBC Radio 4 drama of the same name introduces us to William Hone a forgotten hero of free speech and asks if just over two hundred years later our press has any greater freedom. 1817 Hone then a bookseller, publisher and satirist stood trial for parodying religion, the despotic government and the lustful monarchy. The only crime he had committed was to be funny. The show which has been described by critics as ‘a sparky historical comedy’ heads to The Lowry next week. We caught up with writers Ian Hislop and Nick Newman to hear a little more about the show.

How would you sum up the premise of Trial By Laughter?

Nick: It’s a story about press freedom and free speech and a battle for freedom and free speech. It’s the story of a trial in 1817 – the trial of a man called William Hone, who was a sort of shy bookseller and publisher of cartoons and satirical pamphlets. He was taken to court by the Regency government to try and stifle jokes about the monarchy. That’s essentially what it’s about.

Ian: It’s exactly that. 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.

Nick: I think we’d describe it as The Madness Of King George meets A Few Good Men…

Ian: Meets Crown Court.

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What was the original inspiration for the radio play?

Nick: We’d just finished doing The Wipers Times for BBC 2, 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.

Ian: It’s incredible. He had his moment when history beckoned and then fell into obscurity, to our shame really. I’m the editor of Private Eye and Nick’s a cartoonist yet we didn’t know about him, but again that makes for a much better story because you’re telling people something new.

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From researching the tale what were you most surprised or interested to learn about Hone?

Ian: Without giving spoilers, it’s incredible that they tried him three times in three days. At the end of each day when the jury found him innocent they just tried him again the next morning until there were 20,000 people outside the Guildhall and they thought ‘We’re going to have a riot now’. This was only a couple of decades after the French Revolution…

Nick: And a year before the Peterloo Massacre so tensions were incredibly high. The Crown was very worried about the possibility of revolution and there were failed harvests and a lot of famine, squalor and whatnot. Meanwhile the Prince Regent was being portrayed in cartoons and in pamphlets as this libertine voluptuary who was scoffing vast quantities of food while people were hanging outside the windows. The other thing we discovered about Hone as we did more research is what a remarkable man he was because he wasn’t just a satirist, which was our first interest and his friendship with the cartoonist Cruikshank interested me as a cartoonist myself. Their working relationship was also a natural thing for us to explore and Hone was also probably our first investigative journalist. He was a witness to the execution of a young serving girl, a maid called Eliza Fenning, and he was absolutely appalled by it. He did a lot of research into her case and basically proved that it was a miscarriage of justice. We also learned he was an amazing philanthropist and he took a terrific interest in the lunatic asylums and campaigned for better conditions. There was the reform of juries, which he campaigned for and won. He never stopped working.

Ian: And he believed in universal suffrage, which at the time was a good 100 years away. If you look at his range of interests, they are pretty extraordinary.

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What changes have you made in preparing the play for the stage?

Ian: It’s completely different. The thing about radio is that it has to be very words-driven, which is fine because there are lots of bits about speeches and whatever, but to get it to the stage we have to make it more dramatic. There’s a lot more about the role of his wife and we’ve set more of it in pubs.

Nick: It’s a matter of fact that Hone and Cruikshank devised their strategy for the case in all the pubs and coffee houses of London so it’s a very rich milieu in which they were working. Hone was admired at the time by his literary colleagues, even though he was always bankrupt and had schemes which lost him money, and one of his admirers was William Hazlitt, who was one of the most caustic critics of the era. The only person Hazlitt seemed to like was William Hone so we’ve put Hazlitt in the story as well, which is great for the colour.

What do you feel makes Hone’s story a great subject for a play?

Ian: Hone’s tactic in the trial was to appeal to the jury so his whole way of winning was to make it accessible to an ordinary… I’d hate to say viewer but that’s sort of how he approached it. Courtrooms are great theatre on the whole and Hone and Cruikshank, in devising the strategy as it were, realised that playing to the gallery is not a bad thing in a big trial – it’s what you need to do because you need to get them on your side. That’s exactly what happens in the theatre.

Nick: What was slightly unusual about their tactics is that they set out to make the jury laugh. The basic of their entire case was that Hone 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. There are some transcripts, which admittedly were edited or written by Hone so he did beef up his own amusingness quite a lot.

Ian: A bit like Oscar Wilde writing the account of his own trial and Hone’s account is fantastic. He’s brilliant in it, unsurprisingly because he edited it.

Nick: History written by the victors…

Ian: Yes and it’s bloody funny.

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How you feel the subject matter resonates for contemporary audiences?

Ian: I think it’s a reminder that this battle has to be won in every generation. We are incredibly privileged to be the beneficiaries of all those battles that were won in Britain in the 19th century but they can be lost again. History doesn’t only go one way.

Nick: And the arguments that are buzzing around now are very similar. Hone was targeted because he wrote parodies of religious text, principally The Lord’s Prayer and the Litany and The Ten Commandments, and they were the sort of stuff we’d put in Private Eye now for a bit of fun. Only the other week you had Rowan Atkinson talking about ‘Should we be allowed to make jokes about religion?’ Hone believed you should if the context is political or whatever and that’s what free speech is. On a global scale there are cartoonists in Turkey and Malaysia who are still being persecuted and there’s this amazing Malaysian cartoonist called Zunar who until recently faced 45 years in jail for seditious libel, which is basically the same charge that was levied against Hone, for making jokes about the Prime Minister and his wife. Zunar, like Hone, could have done a runner. I met him when he was over in England but he was going back to face trial because he felt this was an important case, like Hone did, that establishes what we can and can’t say about our rulers.

You’ve worked with director Caroline Leslie a few times now. What do you enjoy about the collaboration?

Ian: [Laughs] She’s very annoying because she demands you put in new scenes and change things around to try and make it better.

Nick: What’s that joke? ‘How many writers does it take to change a lightbulb?’

Ian: ‘None – don’t change anything!’

Nick: That’s very much our view but Caroline forces her to make changes. We first started working with her on our first play we did, A Bunch Of Amateurs, and she was absolutely brilliant and brought all kinds of things to the script which we didn’t know were there, including a lot of music. Then she directed The Wipers Times and that’s a play that’s full of music and movement and we wrote it accordingly because we thought ‘Caroline’s very good at this so let’s make sure she has a lot of stuff to work with’.

Ian: It’s very good having a woman director, particularly in situations that are quite blokey by definition like the Army and English court in the 1800s. She makes sure that it expands beyond that and that the emotional elements are not ignored.

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This is your third play to be developed by the Watermill Theatre. What do you see as its importance to the UK theatre scene?

Ian: It’s a very exciting place to work.

Nick: It’s a remarkable theatre. Apart from being a jewel in terms of its setting and the closeness to the stage you have as an audience, the standard of productions has been incredible. I first came across it when they did a production of Sweeney Todd in 2004 which transferred to the West End. They’re just brilliant at doing things, particularly with music. When we were invited to do A Bunch Of Amateurs there we knew nothing about the Watermill but we enjoyed the experience so much that if we were able to we’d always go there because the audiences are lovely and it’s a great place to do a play.

You’ve been writing together for a long time. How would you describe your collaborative process?

Ian: 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.

Nick: There’s always a lot of energy when it’s the two of us doing something, particularly because Ian’s time is so precious because he’s everywhere. When we get together we have to get on and do some writing. We tend to work quite fast. We both do stuff independently but to edit each other as we go is a sort of bonus. I’ve got lots of writer friends who write on their own, which I think is a very ghastly prospect. They have to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite; if you look at the greats like Alan Bennett, his diaries are full of the pain of rewriting. We have to rewrite as well but it’s a bit less than if we working on our own.

Ian: Because Nick’s a cartoonist he’s always had a strong visual sense whereas I tend to be a bit more word-bound. So there’s always a point where Nick’s thinking ‘What would look great is this…’ which I usually haven’t thought of. I’m thinking ‘This bit I’ve just written would be really clever’ when actually if might be terribly boring and getting something across visually is what it’s all about. That’s another reason we really enjoy collaborating.

How hands-on are you with your touring productions?

Nick: They take on a life of their own really. If we go do a Q&A we see the show and occasionally have some notes, which we pass on to our producer or to Caroline. But really by opening night it’s all pretty much there.

Ian: [Laughs] Our notes are always ‘Could the actors not ad-lib please? Can they only say exactly what we’ve written?’.

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You are doing post-show Q&As again for Trial By Laughter. What do like about the process?

Nick: The ones we have done for The Wipers Times are always very instructive because we meet people who’ve got their own stories to tell. We did a Q&A down in Chichester last year and a lady in the front row said ‘I have a little knowledge of this subject because my grandfather was Fred Roberts [who edited the paper]’ so we said ‘Please come up on stage’ and we just sat there asking her questions about him. It’s a great way of interacting with your audience. In Salisbury we were talking about trying to make The First World War accessible to younger audiences through a humorous story and a young girl at the back who was around 13 went ‘Well, it works!’ With the Q&As you get a bit of a discussion going and a bit of a debate.

Ian: There was a great moment just before one of the Q&As where someone said ‘There’s an Army chap in the audience who said he thought you’d got it pretty much right’ and when we asked who he was they said he was Deputy Supreme Commander Allied Nato Forces.

What you hope to get out of the Trial By Laughter Q&As?

Ian: We want to know what they think 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.

Nick: We’ve become very energised by this subject matter and we’ve found it fascinating. All we’re really trying to do is try and get other people as interested in it as we are. We happen to think Hone is one of the most brilliant men in history and we hope other people share our opinion.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wipers Times

Review by Matthew Forrest

What do you think of whenever the First World War is mentioned? The trenches? The mud? The tragic loss of life? People of a certain age, myself included, will be reminded of GCSE History lessons, with poems by Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon.  It would be fair to say that this period in history is not remembered for its’ humour or biting comedy. However, writers Ian Hislop and Nick Newman are on-hand to give us an alternative and surprising version of the Great War through their play The Wipers Times.

The Wipers Times was a satirical magazine produced on the frontline by soldiers who, when not dodging German mortars, were sharpening their satirical swords and giving the military top-brass a good savaging. The magazine grew with every passing publication and provided the ‘Tommys’ with a morale boosting spot of light relief.


Adapted from Hislop and Newman’s BBC film of the same name, the play focuses on a band of soldiers from the 24th Division of the Sherwood Foresters.  Whilst based in Ypres, they stumble upon a printing press and with this, Captain Fred Roberts and Lieutenant Jack Pearson hit upon the idea of writing a journal made up of jokes and skits to send up the grim situation they find themselves in.  Fake adverts and spoof war reports are the order of the day as the magazine gains popularity with the troops whilst raising the ire of those in command.

This is an excellent piece of the theatre and well worth going to see. As you would expect from writers of their calibre, the jokes are bang on point, and although they freely admit they lifted the best gags directly from the pages of ‘The Wipers’, this is their love letter to a publication which proceeds magazines such as Viz, Punch, and their own magazine Private EyeIt provides a fascinating insight into satire as well as the British stiff-upper-lip. There are gags about the Daily Mail and ridiculous facial hair that, despite being 100 years old, still seem relevant today thus proving a good gag done properly will always be timeless.

The cast are on top form: James Dutton and George Kemp are excellent as Roberts and Pearson and it is their friendship which drives the play. They are supported by a great, young cast of actors who really show the camaraderie and spirit of the time, made all the more poignant with the loss of one of their ranks.

Director Caroline Leslie has got the balance between humour and pathos just right.  Leslie has got the tone spot-on and has judged it exceptionally well. The comedic set-pieces of the musical hall numbers and mock adverts are the highlights; they tip more than a nod and wink to Monty Python’s Flying Circus or The Goons and fans of this style of humour will love it.

The production design is first class, with Dora Schweitzer’s claustrophobic set design in conjunction with Steve Mayo’s booming sound scape: yes this is a comedy but you’re only a moment away from potential catastrophe, as the debris falls from the ceiling, you feel the soldiers peril and part of the action.

The production does have a few very minor issues. At times some of the dialogue was lost; I think maybe the microphones needed turning up a touch.

The Wipers Times is a funny, sharp, entertaining snap-shot of a little known part of Britain’s history, but more importantly it’s a celebration of something we do better than anyone the world over…….”taking the p**s”.

The Wipers Times is on at the Manchester Opera House till the 4th November

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-wipers-times/opera-house-manchester/

The Wipers Times – Ticket Offer!

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Ian Hislop and Nick Newman’s The Wipers Times tells the true and extraordinary story of the satirical newspaper created in the mud and mayhem of the Somme.

The Wipers Times arrives at Manchester’s Opera House on Tuesday 31st October for one week only, direct from a record breaking West End run.

Best available seats for Tuesday-Thursday are only £19.50 using the promotional code ‘WIPERSOFFER‘ at the online check out or via the booking line 0844 871 3018

For tickets head to http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-wipers-times/opera-house-manchester/

 

The Wipers Times – Ian Hislop & Nick Newman interview

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By Matt Forrest

It’s hard to imagine that one of darkest days and bloodiest conflicts the world has ever known could lead to the creation of something as funny as The Wipers Times. Born from the trenches of the Somme this satirical swipe at army life was produced during the 1st World War and helped thousands of serving soldiers smile on whilst all around was going to hell.

However, upon till now little was known of ‘The Wipers’ until writers Ian Hislop and Nick Newman 2013 BBC film about the magazine. Based on this film the two have adapted their script for the stage bringing The Wipers Times to the Manchester Opera House, as part of its current nationwide tour, following huge acclaim and sell-out shows on the West End.

Ahead of opening on 31st October,  Opening Night met up with Ian Hislop and Nick Newman to discuss the origins of the play, the writing process,  what the audience can expect, as well as the state of satire, Trump and Ian’s multitasking running the Private Eye office.

Opening Night (ON): How did the idea come about for the play?

Nick Newman: “Ian discovered this story about 15 years ago doing a documentary for Radio 4: we’re always on the lookout for new ideas and he came back with this trench newspaper he had discovered, which we knew nothing about, which is amazing because it looked and had the same feel of an early version of Private Eye.”

Ian Hislop: “I thought how do we not know this? I mean Nick and I are meant to know about our own industry, and I’m meant to know about the First World War, I’ve done programmes about it, but I’d never come across the story and I thought that this A) fantastic, and B) if no one knows this, this is for us. Here is a great real-life story that you don’t have to make anything up and a magazine which is so funny, we could take loads of it and put it on stage.

Nick: Because I come from a military background, I was familiar with squadron newspapers and things like that (Nick’s Father was a serving officer in RAF). All units have their own version of the Wipers Times, but they’re all full of in jokes, “its Pongo did this”, and full of jokes about people in the unit: whereas these are timeless jokes that work today as they did a hundred years ago.

ON: Would the Wipers Times have worked during more modern-day conflicts?

Ian: There is an army website called ARSE, amusingly Army Rumour Service, which is pretty funny, and the spirit of that still goes on today. But the thing about ‘Wipers’ was that it was so popular and probably the first time that anyone had seen that, which makes it so distinct.

Nick: It also turned on its head our experience of what First World War literature was all about: because up until we read ‘The Wipers Times’, you just thought that nobody laughed ever, there was no jokes. You can watch All Quiet on the Western Front, Journey’s End and it’s sombre, it’s about loss and futility. These chaps were living it on a day-to-day basis. ‘The Wipers’ was produced throughout the war as they were moving around France, and were in Flanders actually fighting, going ‘over the top’, surviving the Somme, being sent back to the Somme, going over the top at Passchendaele, they did this and still managed to keep their sense of humour and that is an amazing story in itself.

Did any of the copies make it back to the UK?

Ian: Yes. They started off producing just 100 and then producing more and more, as it became very popular on the front. And then copies started getting back home and there were reports that they featured in The Tatler of all papers, by 1918 someone had put together a collection to be published, so it’s all the more amazing that this has been forgotten. So yes they did make it back home.

ON: So when I was reading the synopsis for ‘The Wiper Times’, it reminded me of Ripping Yarns. Is that something that has influenced the writing process?

Ian: (Chuckles) Yes

Nick: We’re greatly influenced by everything we’ve seen. We did feel there was a real ‘pythonesque’ element to all of this. There’s a joke which we haven’t used but it could be a Spike Milligan joke: an officer sees a soldier digging holes in No Man’s Land and he thinks he’s sending signals to the Germans by aerial reconnaissance and he says to the soldier, “What the hell are you doing?” and the soldier says “I’m trying to save you money sir…the way I see it, the artillery fires a shell which costs £5 and all the shell does is make a bloody big hole. If I just make the bloody big hole, then they don’t have to fire the shell.” And that’s just a fantastic Spike Milligan joke.

Ian: So your answer is yes. Milligan, Goons, Python, there’s a lot of it in them. But I think it may well be because “they” did it first and that sort of British comic tradition, I think they’re firmly in it. We got Michael Palin to be in the film, which is about as good as it gets if you’re fans of all that, which we are.

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ON: Being friends and writing partners for such a long time, do you argue over jokes etc?

Nick: We both share the same sense of humour so if one of us finds it funny, the chances are that both of us will. I don’t think we had any disagreements about what material from the Wipers Times should go in. We generated much more stuff than could possibly go in and left it to others to decide. There were odd snatches of the Flammen werfer sketch and things like that where we thought it was that or that; let somebody else decide. Luckily we have a good producer, a good director whose judgement we trust. So where it’s a question of we’re just undecided what would work better on stage…

Ian: But if we’ve agreed something when we write the script, we say this is what we think it should be, it’s because we’ve agreed it already so we can argue it; rather than argue for your own stuff. Look, we both think this is funny, there’s lots of stuff which will have fallen along the way. With either Nick going “well that’s not very funny”, or me going “you’re kidding, that’s pathetic!”So we edit quickly as we’re going. And that’s the benefit of old friends.

So it’s not a case of being precious?

Ian: No, maybe when we were nineteen!

Nick: I’ve worked in writing rooms where the star of the show will dissect your joke and publicly humiliate you in front of other people. Luckily we don’t do that with each other – it either hits, or it doesn’t!

Ian: And because Nick’s a cartoonist, I always say that he has a very strong visual sense, which helps hugely.

Nick: I do keep saying, what are we looking at? (Laughter) It’s tough to know, even with The Wipers, even though you’re restricted by the set and the locations, there are visual elements to it all the time and you have to think, how can we make this more interesting for an audience?

Ian: I mean, two people talking in a room, great, the dialogue’s great, what else? That’s the dimension that you mustn’t forget.

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To create the right aesthetic, are there high production values for the play?

Nick: It’s astounded us. When we first wrote it, we imagined it’d be done on a bare stage and people would conjure up the world by their acting. But little did we know that our producers had other plans in mind and would bring in Dora, a brilliant production designer, Dora Schweitzer who has created this magical set which is trenches, dugout, it’s a sort of fantasy land beyond No Man’s Land. It is quite magical; there are stars in the sky, there are moving images and all kinds of things. The production values are much higher than we ever anticipated.

Ian: It’s rounded off with a soundscape, which makes you feel in the middle of it – the bombs are going off nearly the whole way through. As the audience, you just have to get used to that. It’s inescapable. And all that is great because it means you’re stuck like they were.

I suppose you want it to be as realistic as possible?

Nick: Yes. Steve Mayo, our sound engineer has created these enormous base amplifiers so that your seat shakes. You’re ear drums aren’t going to bleed, don’t worry about that! Hopefully you’ll get a sense of, and the reviews so far agree, what it might have been like in the trenches.

Ian, did you not fancy treading the boards after your acting debut?

Ian: I fancied it hugely, however unfortunately I’m very bad! Which is a drawback as an actor, so no!

Nick: Also Ian is far too old to be brutally honest! Mitford’s Granddad! He’s too old to even play a general!

Ian: Even the generals were in their forties! No I’m completely past it!

Nick: Our cast is about the right age. Most of them are straight out of drama school, so it’s their first job in their early twenties.

Ian: And you believe it. Our lads have spent a lot of time together on tour, they feel like a platoon.

Like a Pals Regiment?

Ian: Exactly that.

(ON) With all that is going on in the world at the moment and with you both being satirists: Is difficult to come up with material that isn’t dated an hour later?

Nick: There are various people saying that satire is dead because you can’t beat the real world: well we can jolly well try.

Ian: If the world gets more ridiculous then you have to try harder. I think the thing with someone like Trump , yes you can say he’s got stupid hair and he’s funny a colour, that’s a start. In the end he’s quite used to that, but if you can say your businesses all failed and the one thing you claim to be good at your absolutely useless at, that hurts, and there are things that do undermine him and wound him. I l love the fact that he tweets about Saturday Night Live, it’s not clever it’s not funny. Good they’ve got you.

British politics is pretty bonkers at the moment, but that’s not new either.

Nick: You always say that Juvenal was saying that satire is dead.

Ian: Yes, 1st century AD Roman satirist: well what can you do you exaggerate how ludicrous Rome is, anyway he made a perfectly good living out of it. We’re an old game.

(ON) I think more than ever it’s so important with all that’s going on in the world you need something to have a good laugh at I suppose. I don’t know if you saw about an hour ago someone handed Teresa May a P45 at the Tory party conference? With people doing stuff like that it must be quite difficult.

Ian: Yes someone landed her a perfectly good joke: I think we have done it. I think we did what would make me more popular… just resign. We had done the joke I don’t mind the public getting a bit late. (laughing)

ON: Finally it would be remissive if I didn’t mention this: My Girlfriend’s Dad is a subscriber to Private Eye. I don’t see him that often but whenever I meet up with him he always tells me that he once rang the Private Eye office because his subscription was late, and when he did he got you on the phone. He was made up. He’s dinned out on that story for years.

Nick: (Laughs) You didn’t say fuck off to your readers.

ON: He didn’t say that he said you were more than polite.

Ian: (Laughs) You see, wish him my best and that’s the sort of organisation we are. The editor deals with the subs, and we can’t afford staff.

Nick: Ian is the designer, chief journalist, sub writer.

ON: I don’t know how far back that goes, but he loves that story

Ian: That’s very funny, well say hello. Thank you.

ON: Well it’s a pleasure meeting you both and can’t wait to see the show.

Nick: On the 31st (October) we’re doing a Q and A come along to that if you’ve not bored of hearing us.

ON: I will do it would be my pleasure.

Directed Caroline Leslie, produced by Bob Benton and David Parfitt. The Wipers Times is on at the Manchester Opera House from the 31st October till 4th November.  In addition the play is touring the UK throughout the autumn.

Tickets for Manchester can be purchased here: www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-wipers-times/opera-house-manchester/