and Hens Stags and Hens was originally conceived as an in-house
television piece for Manchester Polytechnic's television and
drama students in 1978 when Willy held the Chair in Creative
The play focuses on a group
of girls and local lads who venture out for a night of pre-marriage
stag and hen party celebrations. The action takes place in the
Gents and Ladies loos of a tacky Liverpool club, Bransky's, where
Dave and Linda (bride and groom-to-be) have decided, unbeknownst
to each other, to hold their stag and hen parties.
Linda runs into her old boyfriend,
Peter, a musician with a single climbing up the pop charts, but
who is back in Liverpool on this particular night - playing a
gig at Branskys.
Whilst entering the club, Dave,
in a drunken stupor, becomes ill from the indian curry he ate
(washed down with a copious mix of cider and Guiness) and spends
the remainder of the evening (and the play) in the Gents, with
his head down the lavatory bowl!
His mates, including Kas, and
gang leader Eddie decide to take the law into their own hands
when they suspect that Linda has developed a crush on Peter and
may be having second thoughts about marrying Dave.
|THE FILM THAT NEVER WAS:
Although filming did begin
at Manchester Poly's Capitol Building (a former cinema which
had become home to the Polytechnic's drama department) it was
on a rather piecemeal basis.
"Apart from one very enthusiastic
lecturer the various heads of department showed little or no
enthusiasm for the project. The student actors (among them people
like Al Hunter-Ashton and Judy Holt whom I'd go on to work with
again in the future) pulled out all they could to try and get
the film completed although with little support, no money and
none of the film stock that had been promised, it became an impossible
task and the project ground to a halt. I've never even seen a
single frame of the pieces that were shot.
I had an idea that although
initially written as a student film, Stags and Hens could fairly
easily be rewritten for the stage and so I sent a copy to Chris
Bond at the Everyman and Chris was immediately up for it. Buoyed
by his enthusiasm I sat down and quickly rewrote and restructured
it for theatre." Willy
play opened at the Everyman in October 1978 and was subsequently
widely produced throughout the country and abroad, playing (as
it still does today) to enthusiastic audiences and reviews (except
for some adverse comments on the raunchy language and sexual
innuendo in the play). In 1984 it was performed in London.
- The play is still as fresh
and relevant today as it was in 1978 and is still being performed
both here in the UK and as far afield as Australia, Canada, America
|THE EVERYMAN CAST:
- Linda - Anne-Louise
Wakefield Maureen - Barbara Peirson
- Cecily Hobbs
- Carol - Donna
- Frances -
- Robbie -
- Billy - Christopher
- Kav - Chris
- Eddy - Edward
- Peter - Richard
- ..at various
(the original Shirley Valentine)
- Kate Fitzgerald
- Judy Holt
- Peter Christian
- Mia Soteriou
|THE IRISH 'HENS'
- The cast of 'Hens' in Dublin
was Stephanie Dunne, Hazel Dunphy (Linda), Maeve Leonard and
|DANCIN' THRU THE DARK
- The play provided the basis
for Willy Russell to write the
screenplay for the successful film 'Dancin' Thru The Dark'
which was released in 1990 throughout Britain.
|THE STAGS AND HENS - 1982 & 1984
|The colour photos (above) show the Liverpool
Playhouse production with (top left & bottom right) The 'Stags';
Andrew Schofield, Mick Maloney, Brian Regan, Bill Leadbitter,
Daniel Webb Gareth Williams and the 'two' Daves - Steven Mathers
/ Peter Wild... and the 'Hens'; Mia Soteriou, Noreen Kershaw,
Judy Holt, Kate Fitzgerald and Angela Walsh on the clever 'three
set stage' designed by Ellen Cairns. This production, which was
a huge success, was directed by Pip Broughton. (Top right) is
a publicity shot from the time and shows Judy Holt and Noreen
Kershaw. The other shot (bottom left) is taken during the Young
Vic premiere and shows Norren Kershaw, Eithne Browne and Kate
Fitzgerald on the floor of the ladies loo.
|THE STAGS AND HENS - 1986
- Feb 13 2008
- Willy Russells Stags
& Hens was written 30 years ago and to celebrate, the writer
has literally remixed it but it still retains the wit and the
many other ingredients that make it such a memorable hit play.
- Staged in the Royal Court
in Liverpool, it immediately feels authentic as this venue is
not known for its plays - comedy and gigs being the main events
previously. So this unique space means that you can eat here
and bring drinks to your table if you are lucky enough to be
sat in the stalls.
- You are transported back to
1977 and the setting is a Liverpool nightclub - complete with
dodgy lights, smoky rooms and drunken revellers. A stag do is
in full swing and following a curry - the lads decide to hit
the club. The only problem is the girls are in the same dive.
- Bride and Groom on weddings
Should never the other one perceive
For if they do theyll live to see
A marriage without harmony
- Linda (Rachel Rae) starts
having doubts as she and her friends dance the night away. Meanwhile,
the groom to be Dave (Kris Mochrie) has passed out in the gents
lav, surrounded by his mates.
- With the wedding less than
12 hours away, will the arrival of Lindas old flame- musician
-Peter (Stephen Fletcher) put a cat amongst the pigeons? The
fun of this fast paced play is finding out whether our heroine
will get to the church on time or whether she will break away
from her mates dreams and ideas.
- The performers bring a funny
but edgy quality to this excellent comedy/drama and each one
of them deserves praise as this really is an ensemble piece.
But Rae is superb as the bride to be with cold feet; you really
feel for her as a result. Fletcher and this gifted actress have
genuine chemistry making you believe in their plight. Gillian
Hardie is a scream as head girl Bernie - the scary leader of
the pack. As for the lads, they too are wonderful but Lenny Wood
is ideal as awkward Billy, the one least likely to cop off.
- Russells writing still
has a bittersweet flavour after all these years and director,
Bob Eaton gives the play the pace and respect that it deserves.
Mark Walters grimy set featuring his and hers backstage
quarters and the back entrance to the club serves as a superb
backdrop to this brilliant revival.
- Feb 7 2008
- Things aint what they
used to be and people today are more likely to jump on a jet
to Amsterdam to celebrate their last night of pre-marital freedom,
than they are to go to their local club.
- Thank goodness then that Willy
Russell hasnt updated Stags and Hens, but rather
rewritten parts of this snapshot of a period, so it still works
as well - although with much more of a contemporary feel.
- Its 1977 and Linda (Rachel
Rae) and Dave (Kris Mochrie) are getting married in the morning.
Dave is legless when he enters the seediest club in town and
forced into in the gents with his head down the bowl.
- In the same club Linda, the
feisty wife-to-be, and her mates are getting drunk, dancing and
trying to pull. Add to the cocktail a returning old flame on
the way up, light the blue touch paper and stand well back.
- This is classic Willy Russell
- lots of subtlety, some moments of inspired genius and an underlying
message summed up best by The Clash all those years ago, should
I stay or should I go, that has been formed into something so
much more by director, Bob Eaton, and this superlative entirely
- The pick of which, in mind
of equality, are Keddy Sutton, playing the dithering Maureen
with such superb timing it is difficult to imagine anybody else
in the role, and James Spofforth as the disillusioned Eddie,
Daves best mate, who has an edge to his character that
is both deeply disturbing and highly likeable.
- Excellent, too, is Gillian
Hardie as Bernie, the archetypal seventies married woman out
on the pull, and Danny OBrian as Kav, the highly talented
yet naive artist.
- With an effective split stage
set, outstanding writing, superlative direction and fabulous
performances all round, Stags and Hens is a play that remains
a great deal of fun and is guaranteed to have audiences chuckling
and empathising with everyone on stage. Tremendous stuff.
- THE STAGE
- Feb 7 2008
- If great art is supposed to
hold a mirror up to society, then Stags & Hens is the perfect
reflection of the Liverpool we live in.
The punchline? Willy Russell's acclaimed script was written back
in 1978, when setting a play in the toilets of a club was akin
to ... well, nothing is taboo anymore really, is it?
- The 2008 version is a 'remixed'
one, according to the press releases, but little has changed
upon first glance - Russell himself, admitting that the pace
of the play has quickened and the language brought up-to-date,
but that's about it.
Which is great news - as the script is still as sharp as ever.
Observational, fearless and honest to the extreme, Stags &
Hens may sometimes come on a little strong for some (the opening
30 minutes are filled with enough 'effing and blinding to bring
Mary Whitehouse back fro her grave), but Willy Russell has never
ducked the big issues.
The story centres on the relationship between hen Linda (a brooding
Rachael Rae) and stag Dave (who remains unconscious throughout!)
- but the real meat and potatoes come from the reactions of their
various friends, to the problems thrown-up on the proverbial
last night of freedom.
Linda bumps into old flame Peter (Stephen Fletcher) - back in
town from London with his punk band - and old passions seem to
Her friends, manipulated by a glowing Suzanne Collins performance,
try to convince her that it's just nerves playing their part,
but the audience knows something deeper is at work - thanks,
in part, to a violent performance of denial from James Spofforth,
as the bullying Eddie.
Hilarious one moment (Kevin Harvey's Robbie nearly steals the
show a few times, especially when the lads enter the women's
toilets), but heartbreaking the next, Stags & Hens is the
type of play that will take a few people on a journey of self-discovery
- if they want to look closely enough.
But, it's great if you just want a good laugh too - as the more
(the little) things change, the more (the big) things stay the
- Feb 6 2008
- NOSTALGIA ain't what it used
to be. Photographs fade and memories become air-brushed. We are
all left with what might have been.
- Willy Russell's re-mix of
his own classic drama proved he really is a playwright for all
- He tweaked 75 per cent of
the original. The happy, entertaining fact is - it hasn't dated.
- A Liverpool nightclub in 1977
is the focal point for two tribes going to war.
- Five girls out on the town;
five lads out, too, drinking and dancing aimlessly in the same
- The stage is split into an
upper balcony disco entrance where the music of Leo Sayer and
Abba blurt out while in the toilets the girls make up - and fall
- Linda is having her hen party.
Dave is not staggering but totally out the game.
- The first half is full of
the early evening false bonhomie of nights out that many of the
audience relate to.
- Part two is livelier and sobering.
- Linda meets old flame Peter
booked to do a gig. She could have gone with him once but she
didn't. She was that close . . .
- There are faultless performances
all around in this brilliantly executed ensemble piece courtesy
of director Bob Eaton and assistant director Eithne Brown.
- Maureen (Keddy Sutton) is
a real joy just like Su Pollard on acid and Billy, played by
Lenny Wood, was another of those characters we've all met that
Willy Russell paints so well.
- Stags & Hens is 30 years
old.The Royal Court is 70.
- This is a marriage in theatrical
- Liverpool Daily Post
A Comedy Classic
There are people who
reckon remakes are never as good as the originals. Last night
at the Liverpool Playhouse, they were proved wrong.
Willy Russell's comedy Stags
and Hens about girls and boys at a night out before a wedding,
was extremely funny at the Liverpool Everyman a few years' back.
Last night the Playhouse turned
it into a comedy classic. This was due to the superb cast which
made the humour come across directly with some realism. The dialogue
sparkled with its common but witty lines.
The set designed by Ellen Cairns
allowed the 12-strong cast to parade their talents to their full
extent, with Andrew Schofield's Billy and Mia Soteriou's Maureen
Director Pip Broughton is able
to turn Russell's play into a slice of reality that continually
amuses, and makes this drama something that must touch every
member of the audience.
It is in this way that the
production continually appeals and should ensure the Playhouse
ending their season with a smash hit.
LIVERPOOL DAILY POST
Stags and Hens
Willy Russell's Stags and Hens is a magnificently vulgar assault
on the threadbare idyll of young love and marriage - first performed
at the Everyman Theatre in 1979, now revived in an even sharper
production at Liverpool Playhouse.
An engaged couple unwittingly
roll up at the same seedy club for their stag hen parties. The
action takes place in the toilets - yellowing urinals and condom
machines on one side of Ellen Cairn's lovingly-detailed set,
cubicles and tampon machines on the other.
"love is blind, marriage
is an institution - who wants to live in an institution for the
blind?" Some of Russell's jokes are a bit hoary, and you
occasionally get the feeling that he fills a notebook with club
gems, then cobbles a comedy together around them. But he's also
accurate and affectionate, with occasional wonderfully surrealistic
flights of fancy, improbably triggered off by tedious surburban
paraphernalia like the accoutrements the couple is supposed to
need for the simple business of coffee-making.
He's also strikingly visual:
the tatty toilets, the girls in their glad-rags - Frances stretched
out on the toilet floor to fasten her canary yellow pedal pushers
over her bulging paunch; Bernadette in a scarlet sequin boob-tube
stopping the gaping ladders in her black stockings with nail
varnish, and the men carrying in the wholy-faced, unconscious
groom to be, traces of an unfortunate chicken curry dinner all
over his trousers. The final orgiastic tableau on the stairs
- GUARDIAN (MAY 1982)
Willy Russell had a great hit
in Dublin with his musical Blood Brothers and in the Focus Theatre
next Monday another of his works will be premiered. Stags and
Hens is a play based on a potentially explosive situation.
be awful if the fellas turned up as well?" The girls are
out for a hen party at the local disco and wonder where the lads
are having the stag party. The same place would you believe.
This classic little play is a very funny look at the whys and
wherefores of love, lust and marriage and is peppered with the
brand of Liverpudlian wit which endeared Blood Brothers to Dublin
The director is Ronan Wilmot
and the talented young cast includes Liz Brogan, Janyne Snow,
Robbie Bowman, Joe Campbell and Mal White. Looks like just the
formula to raise us from the deep winter blues.
- IRISH PRESS
Vacant or Engaged?
If you enjoyed the clever wit
and frank humour of 'Educating Rita', you are certain to giggle
your way through 'Stags and Hens' also written by Willy Russell
currently showing at the Nottingham Playhouse. He has this wonderful
knack of creating real characters and presenting them in real
Dave and Linda are getting
married. The night before the big day, the y spend their stag
and hen nights coincidentally at the same local dance hall in
Liverpool. The setting is the ladies and gents toilets - what
better or more obvious a place for a good gossip and the release
of those pent up frustrations and thoughts on 'the other sex',(as
well as touching up the war paint and satisfying your ego by
writing your name on the already well graffitied walls). After
all it's the only escape from the confines of a noisy and crowded
bar and dance-floor where the real pressure is on to 'tap off'.
All manner of emotions and
questions are raised ranging from - 'What is having a good time..
does marriage really result in being made up' (that's Liverpudlian
for being happy or satisfied) to - 'What are we doing, who make
the rules and where are we going - Anywhere or nowhere?'
Dave unfortunately doesn't
get involved he's too busy throwing-up in the toilets - he spends
most of the performance there (Nigel Betts must take credit for
patience). However, the others except Eddie (he makes all these
meaningful and deeply serious comments) are raring to go - Robbie's
already found a bird - was she Madonna or was it Maradonna?
Meanwhile Linda has shut herself
in the ladies cubicle agonising over her last night of freedom.
'It's only natural, nerves' says Bernie her girlfriend. It's
too late anyway to change your mind; Maureen can't take the barbeque
chairs back (that's her wedding present to a couple who are starting
out in a block of flats)
and if that isn't reason - you
don't back out of the chance to have your own place, hoover and
The play has the same sort
of attraction as TV soap operas (that's why I think so many students
might enjoy it). Simon O'Brien, well known to television viewers
as 'Damon Grant' in Channel 4's 'Brookside' makes his first professional
theatre appearance as 'Kav' - without a slip.
However I think the last word
must be in praise of Marie Jelliman (Bernie) whose voice projection,
facial expressions and enthusiasm is terrific especially her
convincing imitations of a girl adjusting herself at a mirror.
If you're planning to spend
an evening 'on the town', think again - it's two for the price
of one for students on Mondays at the Playhouse and this play
guarantees more than a few laughs.
- NOTTINGHAM IMPACT