Written by Trevor Griffiths

Thursday 18th July to Saturday 20th July and Tuesday 23rd July to Saturday 27th July 1991

Directed by David Penrose

Eddie Waters was a stand-up comic; now he's handing on the knowledge - running a night school for comedians. On the last night of the course six men will do their acts for an Agent, and someone might be on their way to the Big Time. But what can you "teach" a funny man about telling jokes? Sex, race and religion are always funny, aren't they? No says Eddie, they're not; not always. This is a play about jokes, savage - and very funny, brilliantly dramatising the tension between Eddie's lads as they make up their minds what makes a good joke.

AuthorTrevor Griffiths

Trevor Griffiths (b1935)

Trevor Griffiths was born in Manchester and educated at Manchester University. After obtaining his degree and completing his National Service, he started work as a teacher. His first involvement with writing was as editor of the Labour Party's Northern Voice newspaper. Once he began writing plays, he was commissioned to provide a script for BBC series, 'The Wednesday Play'. His next script 'Occupations', was about Gramsci and the Fiat factory occupations of 1920s Italy and was followed by 'The Party', 'All Good Men' and 'Absolute Beginners' for TV.

He returned to the theatre with the Nottingham Playhouse production of 'Comedians' and he later wrote the screenplay for Fatherland, which was directed by Ken Loach. Griffiths continued to work in the theatre, garnering a notable success with the touring production of 'Oi for England' and he has produced a number of plays over recent years to varying degrees of commercial and critical success.


Comedians was first performed at The Nottingham Playhouse in February 1975 with Jonathan Pryce. The production transferred to the National Theatre at The Old Vic and then Wydhams Theatre, London. Its US premiere was in New York in 1976, also starring Jonathan Pryce. It was later broadcast by the BBC in 1979 as part of the 'Play for Today' series.

Comedians is set in is set in real time in a school in Manchester, where a group of budding comics gather for a final briefing before performing to an agent from London in a nearby working-men's club. Initially inspired by a contemporary ITV series called 'The Comedians' the play challenges our ideas of what is funny and what is acceptable as humour and what is not.

The Bench Production

Comedians poster image

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


CaretakerPeter Le Feuvre
Gethin PriceSteven Foden
Phil MurrayAndrew Caple
George McBrainPete Woodward
Sammy SamuelsJohn Corelli
Mick ConnorStuart Hartley
Eddie WatersPeter Corrigan
Ged MurraySimon Norton
Mr PatelDamian Lodrick
Bert ChallenorDavid Penrose
Concert SecretaryPeter Le Feuvre
Club PianistDamian Lodrick


Director David Penrose
Stage Manager Aislinn D'Souza
Lighting Design Jacquie Penrose
Lighting Operation Ian Friel, Sacha Pennington Ellis
Properties Justine Spencer
Costume Sue Spencer
Set Design David Penrose
Set Construction David Hemsley-Brown
Front of House Rita de Bunsen

Director's Notes

It must have been an autumn evening in 1974 that I went to hear Trevor Griffiths talk in Leeds his home town. He had just become something of a celebrity with his first major success 'The Party', having just opened at the National Theatre; a double coup that punctuated the last period of his stage life. I don't remember a lot about the evening. Griffiths was dour and funny about 'actors' with a classical training; how getting up and leaving a room like a normal person became a major achievement, taking yo half a day's rehearsal. His contempt for the breed was pretty clear. He talked about the crisis in a theatre that was ill-equipped to reach a mass audience, and has since written most of his not very prolific output for television. Questions were taken; the meeting winding up. Then came a question about how he saw the future of popular theatre if it didn't lie with 'The Profession'. Suddenly he started talking about Morecambe and Wise and their enormous power over an audience. The stand-up comic on a tiny stage in a working-men's club, he went on, had more chance of catching the experience of his audience and illuminating it that of any touring fringe companies of earnest left wingers, even if only because their tiny stages were NOT in working men's clubs. The man had lit up with an enthusiasm new to the whole evening. He was clearly talking about new work, as yet untouched by actors.

'Comedians' opened at Nottingham playhouse in February 1975, with Eddie Waters played, not by a trained actor, but a veteran of the Variety stage, Jimmy Jewel.

David Penrose


The NewsHelen Palmer

Funny - but disturbing

When is a joke not funny? When it relies on racism and sexism for a cheap laugh, according to Eddie Waters, a central character in Comedians. Once a famous comic, Eddie is coaching a group of aspiring wits for a talent spot.

Havant Bench Theatre's production of Trevor Griffiths powerful play is innovative and fun. The audience titters at thrusting pelvises and jokes about girls with large breasts. You cringe but you also laugh - until Angry Young Man Gethin Price comes on the scene. Acted with a finely controlled confidence by Steven Foden, he brings out the disturbing side of an extremely funny play. Comedians runs until Saturday.

The News, 23rd July 1991

Production Photographs