by Joe Penhall.
Kingston Rose Theatre 24-26 High Street KT1 1HL To 17 April 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu, Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 0871 230 1552.
Review: Carole Woddis 7 April.
The best-laid schemes can go astray.
When Joe Penhall’s Dumb Show opened at the Royal Court in 2004 it seemed the most incisively apt play for today. Penhall’s previous work, such as Blue/Orange, Love and Understanding, Pale Horses and Some Voices had marked him out as one of the most sensitive writers of his generation with an instinctive feel for the underdog and disenfranchised.
Dumb Show was a departure – bitter, satirical, a blast against our enslavement to celebrity and the media that give it oxygen. It was a simple tale, ostensibly, of tabloid journalists meeting a ‘national treasure’ entertainer/comic, said celeb falling for `honey trap’ bait and seduction with disastrous results.
Even after all these years, Michael Barrymore’s demise still ripples in the memory. But Penhall also has other fish to fry. He’s here to expose façades, the gap between public face and private morality, the immorality of journalistic techniques and in a sense ourselves, we the audience and our own hypocrisy, lapping it all up and baying for more.
His central question hovers around the focus of what is `privacy’ in an age when TV, print and internet have become the new forms of confessional, with an always-ready queue lining up to divest themselves of their conscience? `Sorry’ has become the most over-used word in the lexicon. Even the Pope uses it.
Stephen Unwin’s revival for his brave new Rose Theatre – the fact it is still open and thriving is nothing less than a miracle given that it receives no Arts Council funding – promises much.
It’s clever casting. Penhall was also taking aim at comedy and Sanjeev (The Kumars at 42) Bhaskar, with his insouciant sense of send-up would seem to have been born to play the part of the unfortunate Barry, complacent and cocksure before such hubris leads to nemesis.
Unwin’s production certainly doesn’t lack for electricity with Simon Higlett’s smart, cream leather set zapped by floodlights and ribbons of strobe light sweeping the stage. But there’s a fatal under-vocalisation from Dexter Fletcher’s cockney wideboy journalist, Greg, whilst Bhaskar sabotages the play’s final twist through inaudibility, the current plague of our contemporary London theatre.
Barry: Sanjeev Bhaskar.
Liz: Emma Cunniffe.
Greg: Dexter Fletcher.
Director: Stephen Unwin.
Designer/Costume: Simon Higlett.
Lighting: Malcolm Rippeth.
Sound: Dave Starmer.