Theatre Challenge round two!
It’s time for the Entry Pass! Entry Pass is a free scheme that sells £5 tickets to 16-25s- so this was always going to be one of my trips. I decided to use the Pass to see Great Britain, a National Theatre-turned-West-End show that has a gazillion ads on the tube. I roll past these ads everyday on the commute in, and when I saw they had cheap seats, I was suckered straight in.
It’s a satirical look at the dodgy dealings of
th e News of the World a fictional paper, the Free Press. Paige Britain, the cut throat, morality depraved News Editor leads you through the play in a defensive/accusatory tone of voice- that familiar cocky justification of tabloid misbehaviour “it’s what the reader wants!”. In a play that echoes real life, there is no embarrasment about the comparisons being drawn. The Guardianer, ahem, has a tagline “We think so you don’t have to”. The fictional kidnapped girls are the Mills twins, the real kidnapped girl is Milly Dowler. This is a no holds barred show.
We sit in on the editorial meets, follow Paige as she discovers how to hack phones, watch heads of the police departments get very cosy indeed with journalists. The wit is razor sharp and brash- “she suffers from dwarfism” – “You can’t say that!”- “…she enjoys her dwarfism.” and the headlines that emblazon the stage often got bigger laughs than the cast themselves did, a personal favourite being “Immigrants eat swans”. The show is a mesh of barely disguised real-life media scandals, and the whole energy and style is like living in the chaotic mind of a tabloid.
Now. I’m going to straight up come out with it- I wasn’t that impressed. While some of the show is delicious- “Since when did the Free Press publish obituaries?”- “Every day, Diana Princess of Wales”- there is an uglier side. A few racist jokes drop dead on their feet, leaving an awkward silence. Paige breaks the fourth wall to tell the audience it is their fault the go out and ruin lives. Many of what could’ve been big laughs were swallowed up by a near empty theatre and a couple of actors, ludacrisly, just weren’t that good (like the half hearted extra who wanted to get rid of ‘Page Seven girls’ and Kassam, the police commissioner who was exceedingly flat for such a juicy character). The whole cast was led by Paige’s energy, played by a perfect Lucy Punch, who seemed to dredge them up to her level with some difficulty. It’s not what you expect from a play that has been described as “raucously funny”.
One thing that really ground my gears was how empty the theatre was. The cheap seats were on the Upper Circle, but an interval snoop showed me that the auditorium was barely half full. It’s frustrating for us five pound ticketers to sit on the edge, with a chunk of the stage missing, knowing full well that all the good spots are empty, and it must’ve been frustrating for the people who spend small fortunes on the stalls to realise they could’ve bought something for a great deal less and picked a seat when they got here. I definitely think that if a show has massively undersold their night’s tickets, there should be some system to rejig the seating plan to make sure everyone’s getting a fair deal. This play needed either a filled theatre or a nice intimate one, not something halfway in between.
Overall rating is this: I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s not bad, so if you have a spare fiver and you can use the Entry Pass, it’s worth an evening, but I wouldn’t bother paying full price. The editorial meetings were the highlight, but the bum notes and accusatory edge bottomed out for me.
THEATRE CHALLENGE TOT UP:
- Price: £5 using Entry Pass
- Remaining: £43
- Shows so far: Two!
Interesting. I’m often weary of plays that have great reviews in the press… but that’s just me. I’ve been let down too many times
I don’t know- Urinetown has had absolutely rave reviews and I wholeheartedly agree with them! I think half the problem with this play came from the theatre itself. In an arthouse setting, it would have felt more intimate and more in-jokey, but in a barely filled West End theatre, there was too much empty space (literally and figuratively!) to get away with the harsher stuff…