Stags 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 Writing.

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.


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 Russell

Programme cover from the Pip Broughton directed Stags and Hens at Liverpool Playhouse in 1982The 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 and Sweden.

Linda - Anne-Louise Wakefield Maureen - Barbara Peirson
Bernadette - Cecily Hobbs
Carol - Donna Champion
Frances - Lola Young
Robbie - Philip Donaghy
Billy - Christopher Martin
Kav - Chris Darwin
Eddy - Edward Clayton
Peter - Richard Clay Jones

..at various times included:
Noreen Kershaw (the original Shirley Valentine)
Kate Fitzgerald
Judy Holt
Andrew Schofield
Peter Christian
Miranda Richardson
Carole Ruggier
Andrew Taylor
Mia Soteriou
The cast of 'Hens' in Dublin was Stephanie Dunne, Hazel Dunphy (Linda), Maeve Leonard and Jane Snow.
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.

Feb 13 2008
Willy Russell’s 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 wedding’s eve
Should never the other one perceive
For if they do they’ll 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 Linda’s 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.
Russell’s 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 ain’t 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 hasn’t “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.
It’s 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 Liverpool cast.
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, Dave’s 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 O’Brian 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.


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 be re-kindled.

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 same.

Alan O'Hare - Liverpool.com

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 seasons.
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 dingy club.
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 out.
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 heaven.

Peter Grant - 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 particularly amusing.

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.


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 is gorgeous.


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.

"Ey … wouldn't it 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 audiences.

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.


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 situations.

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 all.

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.