Reviewed – 7th November 2017
“Sections of dialogue that should be snappy, drag instead, making many witty lines fall flat”
Howard Brenton and David Hare’s satire of 1980s newspapers is performed too rarely. After winning several awards at its premiere in 1985, it was not revived until 2006. The writing is sharp and funny, and the passing of time has rendered its jokes about the press even more relevant. The script is the real star in this performance, which is otherwise rather a mixed bag.
The play is centred around Lambert La Roux, a South African businessman and thinly veiled caricature of Rupert Murdoch. Alongside him is Andrew May, a young journalist he promotes at first to editor of a local paper, and then a national broadsheet. La Roux’s amoral profiteering and manipulation prove a struggle for Andrew’s ethics, and the bleak emotional heart of the second half of the play focuses on the loss of both his self-respect and his relationships with those closest to him.
La Roux is played with great success by Max Fisher. His South African accent is occasionally implausible but he inhabits the role fully, from the shambling gait he adopts to La Roux’s air of certainty that he is always the most important person in the room. He is constantly on the verge of over-acting, but with a character like this that doesn’t feel like such a drawback. Oliver Ferriman makes an endearingly earnest Andrew May, giving a performance that seems a little shallow, but that makes Andrew easy to empathise with. The other roles are for the most part inoffensive but unremarkable. David Hankinson stands out as the corrupt MP Michael Quince, but some minor parts are played very poorly.
The performance’s biggest stumbling point is the pacing. Sections of dialogue that should be snappy, drag instead, making many witty lines fall flat. Otherwise, director Louise Bakker has done an admirable job creating this production on a less than ideal stage – it is simply a space surrounded by black curtains, the effect spoiled by the gallery running round the top. The minimal sets (desks, chairs, and so on for the most part) work well, though a little more evocation of atmosphere would be welcome. On balance, this is a moderately successful production of a wonderful play. It’s worth seeing for the rarity at the very least.
Reviewed by Juliet Evans
Photography by Ruth Anthony
is at the Bridewell Theatre until 11th November