Life is imitating art in Eastbourne this April as a new play, with inspiration drawn from free speech debates surrounding cartoon-driven satire such as that seen in Private Eye, Charlie Hebdo and Viz, receives its world premiere with one of Private Eye’s leading cartoonists on the cast.
Brighton actor Nathan Ariss, who is a major contributor to Private Eye and a leading British cartoonist, will join the cast of dark comedy Probably Offensive written by Rye-based author Scott Kingsnorth, best known for his work as an improv performer and comedy writer for BBC Radio 4.
The inaugural run will be at Printers Playhouse on Grove Road on April 6, 7, 12, 13 and 14. Tickets £10 and can be purchased at www.printersplayhouse.co.uk or on the door.
The show follows the staff of Probably Offensive magazine – a satirical, cartoon-based publication, as they cope with the fallout of bedding in a new intern, dealing with a major political scandal and handling a mysterious visitor, a new legal record and a major life-changing event - all in one morning.
Ariss, who is playing cartoonist Howard Box, will be joined by ex-Old Vic, LA and New York actress and Lewes resident Sharon Lloyd as the acid-tongued editor Alex Newman; Printers Playhouse proprietor and Eastbourne actor John Berry is playing visitor Andrew Lomax; Zak Watson-Smith, an actor and dancer from Lamberhurst plays American cartoonist Todd McCarthy and Portsmouth talent Ed Newman plays new intern Jack Wright.
The production is being directed by London-based actor-director Paddy Cooper, who is no stranger to the Sussex theatre scene, having led the cast of Bowler Crab’s 2016 tour of King Lear and, most recently, narrated the new musical The Seven Doors Of Danny at Brighton’s Phil Starr Pavilion as part of the B Right On Festival for LGBT History Month.
Ahead of rehearsals, Paddy Cooper said: “It’s a real honour to be asked by Printers Playhouse to direct such a hard-hitting yet hilarious new play, tackling not only major issues like free speech, but real, well-observed humanity among people who have had to develop a thick skin.
“I saw a lot of very talented actors from all over England for this, and have found with Sharon, Nathan, Zak, Ed and John the cream of the crop – all of them great comedians and really insightful performers. Of course, it’s also a real treat to have one of the country’s most prominent cartoonists on board, playing what is in essence a version of himself, but also bringing so much industry knowledge to the rehearsal room. I’m very excited for the weeks ahead.”
Author Scott Kingsnorth said: “I wrote Probably Offensive because of people’s divided opinions on the topic of freedom of speech. It was written not necessarily to give answers but provoke debate in a world where people who aren’t funny have started telling people that are funny what it’s okay to make jokes about.
“We have a very talented cast and director that bring years of experience to the production and I hope that it will achieve a life beyond this inaugural run.”
Producer John Berry said: “Here at Printers Playhouse we hope to tackle tough subjects and issues, using art as a vehicle for social change.
“Probably Offensive is a great new play written by a local playwright – political but not partisan – which makes you laugh and cry as well as think from curtain up to curtain down.
“As an actor and producer, I personally believe it is right to push the boundaries of what you feel is safe, to take the biggest risks and the boldest choices. I think we have the cast and creative team to do that with this show.”