by Mark Jagasia.
Arcola Theatre 24 Ashwin Street E8 3DL To 14 November 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7503 1646.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 23 October.
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It’s taken only a few months for the Arcola to whisk its spring success – an often comic, sometimes hilarious newspaper exposé underpinned by serious reflections – back on stage with the same cast.
If it’s amazing the people we see are responsible for a product they announce as essential to democracy, more disturbing is the person, referred (and deferred) to, who runs the show.
While Clarion astrologer Dickie is attacked for prophesying the end is nigh, it pretty much is as editor Morris tracks the approach of proprietor Benny by private plane from his doubtless tax-haven home. (En route he orders Morris to cover a missing dog story his latest girlfriend wants to read about.)
For the paper that’s revealed all about anyone it can build a story round, is about to have its own secret revealed by the left-leaning Sentinel, with its massive investment in online technology. The surprise outcome of this would seem unbelievable if it didn’t chime-in with the way journalism’s going.
The new world has arrived with Laura Smithers’ work-experience Pritti, ignorant and opportunistic, amoral as only someone who doesn’t understand morality can be. And, ironically on this Forward to the Past title, the one person from a non-White background.
While she watches and questions, editor Morris storms, placing his precious Roman Centurion’s helmet on the table for editorial conferences, watching for barbarians at the gates.
Greg Hicks plays him as if he powered by coin-operated energy, expressing reactions in a semi-Tourette’s display of moves and facial fidgets.
Only Clare Higgins’ Verity, the intrepid former foreign correspondent, allows sight of his capacity for loyalty, and the anxious calculations involved in keeping their jobs, and the paper, going.
Wounded in action, wearily promulgating the paper’s party line while trying privately to inject some sanity into operations, Higgins shows why her character’s known as ‘mother’ without softening her shrewd directness.
Mehmet Ergen’s fizzing production, fired by Hicks, Higgins and, among a fine cast, Jim Bywater’s ‘not me gov’ news editor, catches the whiplash comedy and dart-sharp irony, packing a heavyweight punch with the litheness of a gazelle.
Verity: Clare Higgins.
Albert: Jim Bywater.
Josh: Ryan Wichert.
Morris: Greg Hicks.
Pritti: Laura Smithers.
Clive: Peter Bourke.
Dickie: John Atterbury.
Additional company: Diego Benzoni, Vix Dillon, Katerina Elliott, Camilla Harding, Damien Killeen, Ali Wright.
Director: Mehmet Ergen.
Designer: Anthony Lamble.
Lighting: David Howe.
Sound/Music: Neil McKeown.
Movement: Ayse Tashkira.
Associate director: Kay Michael.