Nick Newman and Ian Hislop’s play Trial by Laughter shines light on the changing scope of free speech

Ian Hislop and Nick Newman’s new comedy courtroom play Trial by Laughter is currently touring around the UK and will soon be landing at The Lowry in Salford.

Based upon the real-life story of William Hone (1780-1842), it tells the tale of one man’s battle for freedom of speech in the press.

In 1817, Hone, along with illustrator George Cruikshank, was tried for publishing satirical cartoons against the state and monarchy.

Hone believed that politics should be open to criticism and ridicule and used his three day trial to argue for freedom of the press.

Not every country has won such battle however.

“On a global scale there are cartoonists in Turkey and Malaysia who are still being persecuted,” explained Newman.

Last year, Malaysian cartoonist Zunar faced a threat of 43 years in jail for publishing controversial political cartoons of the country’s then Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife.

TOURING: The play is coming to The Lowry in Salford

“I think it’s a reminder that this battle has to be won in every generation,” Hislop said of the play.

“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.”

Just as one man started a movement to permit the people to criticise the government, rhetoric from Donald Trump has led to the people now criticising the press instead.

“Fake News is truly the ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!,” the US President tweeted earlier this week.  

A White House press conference in November last year even saw CNN reporter Jim Acosta removed as Trump avoided answering his question about a ‘caravan of immigrants’ and instead attacked the reporter and news outlet saying “CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them. You are a rude, terrible person”.

At risk of a ‘No-Deal Brexit’, it is important that the people know the facts and can freely comment on the running of the country.

By the critique of a ‘despotic government’, Hone’s steps forward to freedom of the press, can now allow the public judgement of an, apparently, confident one.

As we ourselves live through the history of Brexit, it is something to consider how future generations may look back through the news and laugh at the politicians, the press, or the people.

*Trial by Laughter will be at The Lowry from January 29 to February 2. You can buy tickets HERE.

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