Satirists Ian Hislop and Nick Newman, writers of The Wipers Times, have again taken inspiration from real life for their new play Trial by Laughter.
Based on their BBC Radio 4 drama of the same name, the production will play at The Watermill in Newbury for six weeks (September 20-October 27).
It will then go on a UK tour visiting Guildford, Ipswich, Cheltenham and Brighton, with further venues to be announced.
The play tells the story of bookseller, publisher and satirist William Hone who stood trial in 1878 for parodying religion, the despotic government and the libidinous monarchy.
Hislop and Newman describe him as a “forgotten hero of free speech” and ask if our press has any greater freedom.
The editor of Private Eye since 1986, Hislop has been team captain on BBC’s Have I Got News For You since 1990.
At Private Eye he works alongside Newman, an award-winning cartoonist and writer.
As a scriptwriting duo, their TV work includes Spitting Image and Harry Enfield and Chums, and other plays include The Wipers Times and A Bunch of Amateurs.
They 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.”
The Wipers Times tours again from August 28, transferring for a second time to the Arts Theatre in the West End in October where it plays a limited season until December 1.