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Upstart Theatre and the Union Theatre





by Steven Lally


Director: Tom Mansfield


Designer: Giulia Scrimieri


Lighting and sound: Phil Hewitt


16 June – 4 July 2009









A review by Marion Drew for EXTRA! EXTRA!


We are at the epicenter of the newsroom of a fictional newspaper where important news is breaking. News editor James is struggling to keep his team on task and he has two seasoned reporters, Charlotte and Fin, and a newcomer, George to help him do the job. They are working to tight deadlines and in a difficult political climate.

A fast and furious production, this play does indeed raise important and topical questions. Set against the background of the shooting of the innocent Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes by armed police in Stockwell on 22nd July 2005, the central message of the play is about the tensions between the reporting of the ‘truth’, the ever present pressure from powerful paper bosses (with their eye on the politics of the day and definitely not on their responsibility towards the reading public) and the simple need to keep one’s job.

However, I feel that this message becomes overshadowed and diluted by the force of the mix of professional rivalry and particular personalities dealing with the killer pressure of 24-hour news. I would have liked to be able to get past the minefield of office politics, which although brilliantly portrayed through quick, clever dialogue, didn’t allow enough time and depth for us to settle into some considered thought about questions and concerns, which of course as the play powerfully points out, are not going to simply go away. This dilution is not helped by the flashbacks through the play which tend to be confusing; a more solid time-line would have helped develop a deeper understanding of the characters, particularly the desperate anger of Charlotte (Susanna Fiore), the clearly talented reporter who is pushing for the reporting of unpalatable truths. The actors do well to create the atmosphere of a frenzied and stressful environment and I especially enjoyed the performance of Matthew Duggan as the supremely cynical Fin. Benjamin Peters also does a fine job as James in a bullying scene with George (Charlotte Flintham), but the biting anger of Charlotte for me needs a more nuanced edge.

What the play does well, is to show how difficult and slippery a thing it is to try to avoid distortion and bias in the world of reporting, and it does so with more than a little dark humour. The set and lighting do an excellent job of taking us right inside the newsroom, into its physical daily reality, and to have the audience completely surround the stage reinforces the idea that although the people who write the news are of the real world, in many senses they are in fact in a bubble of their own. As the play’s message drives strongly at, perhaps that bubble needs to burst, and productions like this may help it along that road.


Union Theatre

Tuesday 16 June 2009 to Saturday 4 July 2009 (no performances Sun/Mon)

Running Times: 1hr30 including interval

Tickets: £12/£10 concessions

Union Theatre, 204 Union Street, London SE1 OLX

Venue Box Office: 020 7261 9876




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