(Seen at the afternoon performance on 21st April 2018).
Cases for the prosecution and defence are put, one in each half, in a mixture of
courtroom and flashback scenes. Changes in angles and inflections are shown, the
idea that the only "real" evidence is in fact a heavily edited videotape - 5
sources spliced into 1 - is put. A picture of obsessives determined to win is
painted, and the audience is asked at the end of each act to vote on whether the
motivation was honest fun or genuine deception. It was 76% guilty at the end of
act 1 that afternoon, 52% guilty by the end of act 2. An interesting result,
given that the last 10 performances results are shown after, and it turns out we
were one of the very few to convict.
The trouble is, James Graham's play lacks
the confidence to stick to the central idea. In a bit to be "entertaining" the
audience gets a pub quiz, a few lucky people get to take part in some ancient
game-shows on stage (really, really badly acted impersonations of much-loved
hosts from Keir Charles) and potentially promising dramatised background scenes
seem to lose relevance as the play's structure evolves.
There's a few decent
performances. Gavin Spokes and particularly Stephanie Street make a convincing
Ingram couple. Him slightly "military buffoon," her a quiz fanatic with a dose
of common sense. Mark Meadows as David Briggs, Tecwen Whittock and Major Roberts
puts up a decent fight, as does Greg Haiste in various roles. A nod too for Jay
Villiers, who has to deal with some over-written lines that could have added a
final disastrous kick at the end, had they not been so expertly handled.
pretty clear to the monkey that this would have worked had it been smaller in
every way. A shorter, tighter focussed piece presenting the facts with minimal
adornment would have been preferable - the entertainment coming from the story
rather than a desperate bit to be "interesting" (this isn't a game show, after
all). The huge Noel Coward Theatre is a barn to fill with the intimate tale of a
trio setting out to commit a con on the tiny TV screen, and it doesn't scale
well. Daniel Evans does his best to fill the room by moving people on a good
Robert Jones set, augmented by notable Tim Lutkin lighting and Tim Reid video
design. It isn't enough, though.
Disappointing, given the wonderful concept,
cast and production team. Not one the monkey will be phoning friends for,
encouraging them to see.