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Stags and Hens poster.  Ion Productions 2011

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Stags & Hens...

The Film That Never Was...

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

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 Kav, 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.

More About That Film

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

The play opened at
the Everyman in October 1978 and was subsequently widely produced throughout the country and abroad, playing (as it still does today in its 30th year!) 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.

The cast for Stags & Hens

Programme cover from the Playhouse production in 1982
The Stags & Hens at Liverpool
Noreen Kershaw and Judy Holt
The Hens in the 'lavvy' stags

The Stags & Hens: 1982 & 1984
(Click the photos to open larger versions)

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 Fiztgerald 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 & page banner) is a publicity shot from the time (May 1982 - Liverpool Playhouse) and shows Judy Holt and Noreen Kershaw.

The other shot (bottom left) is taken during the Young Vic premiere and shows Norren Kershaw (the very first Shirley Valentine), Eithne Browne (who later went on to Ass. Direct the 2008 Liverpool Royal Court production) and Kate Fitzgerald on the floor of the ladies loo. The London Premiere at the Young Vic was Directed by David Thacker with set design by Shelagh Keegan.