Stags and Hens

Written by Willy Russell

Thursday 21st July to Saturday 23rd July and Tuesday 25th July to Saturday 30th July 1988

Directed by Jo German

Set in the Gents and Ladies loos of a Liverpool nightclub, 'Stags and Hens' is a comedy of wedding eve nerves. Discover what happens to Dave and Linda, out on their last fling before tying the nuptial knot, as their respective stag and hen parties arrive at the same venue. 'Stags and Hens' is a lively, coarse and very funny play from the author of 'Educating Rita' and 'Blood Brothers'.

AuthorWilly Russell

Willy Russell (1947)

Russell was born in Whiston, Liverpool and grew up in a working class family. After leaving school with one O-level he first became a ladies' hairdresser then ran his own salon. Following that he undertook a succession of jobs, as well as writing songs which were performed in local folk clubs. At the age of 20 he returned to college and University, and subsequently became a teacher in Toxteth. Around this time he also became interested in writing drama after seeing John McGrath's play 'Unruly Elements'.

His first play was 'Keep Your Eyes Down Low' written in 1971. His first success was a play about The Beatles called 'John, Paul, George, Ringo and Bert' which opened in the West End in 1974. His best-known works are 'Educating Rita' (which was made in to a film in 1983), 'Shirley Valentine' (filmed in 1989), and the musical 'Blood Brothers'. Russell has written songs since the early 1960s, and has written the music to most of his plays and musicals.

The Willy Russell Centre for Children and Adults Who Stammer, was opened by him in Liverpool in 1996. The philosophy that anyone is capable of change whatever obstacles may be in their path (which is central to much of Russell's work) is a theory shared by the centre.

PlayStags and Hens

'Stags and Hens' was first published in 1978 and first produced at the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool in October of that year. The play is a comedy of a wedding-eve nerves. It makes comments about their intellect, life, party habits and exclusion of the different. Marriage may be a sacrifice but the traditions have to be observed; to challenge the accepted rituals is to take a dangerous path.

The play is set in a trashy 70s disco in Liverpool. The action is centred mainly in the gents and ladies' toilets of the nightclub where both Linda (The Bride) and Dave (The Groom) have decided to hold their stag and hen nights, not knowing that their fiancee is at the same venue that night. When Linda's ex-boyfriend, band-guitarist, Peter, arrives and offers her an escape she is forced with a difficult decision - to stay or to go.

'Stags and Hens' was adapted by the author in to a film called 'Dancin' thru the Dark' in 1990.

The Bench Production

Stags and Hens poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.


LindaJude Salmon
MaureenDebbie Valentine
BernadetteJane Hemsley-Brown
CarolJanice Bell
FrancesJustine Spencer
DaveVincent Adams
RobbieAlan Jenkins
BillyJohn Valentine
KavPeter Holding
EddyDavid Penrose
PeterRichard Heyburn
RoadieRobert Finn


Director Jo German
Stage Manager Ben Payne
Lighting Design Jacquie Penrose, Daniel Shires
Costumes Robbie Cattermole
Set Design David Penrose
Poster Design Charles Payne
Front of House Jacquie Penrose

Programme Notes

It was John McGrath's play 'Unruly Elements' which changed Willy Russell's mind about theatre; he had previously thought of it as being stuffy and middle class. Here was a way to communicate directly through humour and dialect, to touch people's emotions, to change lives. However, Willy Russell also wants his audiences to have a good time; the spirit of social reform is always answerable to the entertainment ethic.


The NewsEdward Peters

Gutsy view of nuptial 'bliss'

Willy Russell's "comedy of convenience" is set in the toilets of a seedy scouse club and aims to provide a stomach-lining view of stag and hen parties which accidentally coincide. The result is not for the squeamish, neither is it for those without a sense of humour.

"Marriage is an institution, love is blind. Who wants to live in an institution for the blind?" reads the graffiti on the lavatory wall, but despite the pitfalls of wedlock the mates of both bride and groom are determined not to let the happy couple stray off-course. This is not difficult for the husband-to-be as he spends the entire play comatose with his arms around the "great white telephone", but more so for the not-so-virginal Linda, superbly played by Jude Salmon, when she runs into the lead guitar player - her former lover - who is gigging at the club that night.

Russel has an ear for dialogue and an eye for the ironies of life, especially when his characters are following petty conventions. His keen insight makes 'Stags and Hens' his best play after 'Educating Rita'. The ending is neatly left open, but the fatal words "who'd be married today if we took notice of how we feel?" stay behind to haunt us.

The Bench Theatre produced an excellent, gutsy piece. 'Stags and Hens' runs at the Havant Arts Centre July 21-23 and 25-30.

The News, 22nd July 1988

Production Photographs