Skip to main content

louiseavey
11th February 2019

Review: Trial by Laughter

Louise Avey reviews Trial by Laughter at the Lowry Theatre, which may go on to become a hit with seasoned theatre-goers
Categories:
TLDR
Review: Trial by Laughter
Photo: @Philip Tull

Ian Hislop and Nick Newman’s Trial by Laughter is a traditional play set in 1817 and portraying the story of William Hone, the unsung hero of free speech. Hone was a bookseller, publisher, and satirist, accused of parodying and posing threat to religious texts. In 1817, he stood trial for ‘impious blasphemy and seditious libel’. The only crime he had committed was his sense of humour.

The actual subject matter and plot is interesting and tense, a story of scandal and satire. However, the delivery does not portray this story with the level of interest that is anticipated and desired. The beautiful Lowry stage and technical benefits of the theatre could definitely have been better utilised. The brief moments that they were used effectively, such as in scene changes when the clock would light up and the hands moved anti-clockwise to signify time passing, it was awe-inducing. This dramatic scene change was well received and would have been great if other scenes could have been illuminated and brought to life with the use of similar creative ideas.

The artistic devices such as how the audience were addressed as the jury, seemed interactive and progressive, but didn’t fit with the formal and structured delivery of the play. Although it had pace, this pace consisted of Hone (played by Joseph Prowen), as Hone, racing through an extremely wordy monologue.

Undoubtedly, there were some great moments of good old-fashioned comedy. The most humorous moments were certainly in the sub-text, as class and gender politics notably simmered under the surface, only to be revealed in jest.

Overall, this play was enjoyable and clearly targeted at an experienced audience of seasoned theatre-goers as opposed to a modern family friendly play or one exploring contemporary issues. It is clear that Trial by Laughter is a play that will remain popular, for many reasons such as its comedy, portrayal of traditional English ideals, masculinity, chivalry, but it will not become popular amongst the masses.


More Coverage

Pretty Woman the Musical review: An unimaginative adaption that lacked identity

Pretty Woman the Musical was a disappointing adaption of a problematic rom-com that showed glimpses of how much better it could have been if a bolder and more imaginative approach had been taken

Live at The Fête of Britain review: A humorous address of the modern world

Uniting art, comedy, politics and activism, Live at The Fête of Britain provoked an important discussion about the most pressing issues of our time

UMMTS’ Timey Wimey review: A Doctor Whosical

Even if you are not a Whovian the UMMTS’ production will take you on a mesmerising journey through the most iconic features of the Whoniverse

Blue Beard review: Problematic and distasteful plastic feminism

In production with Wise Children theatre company, Emma Rice’s new adaptation of Blue Beard uses circus tricks, smoke, and mirrors to dance around the genuine issues it is trying to tackle