THE SHALLOW END
by Doug Lucie.
Southwark Playhouse Shipwright Yard corner of Tooley St and Bermondsey St SE1 2TF To 3 March 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat 3.15pm.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 13 February.
Force and hypocrisy of newspaper ownership seen in a middling revival.
With the Leveson inquiry into newspapers’ illegal information-gathering, it’s a good time to hack back into Doug Lucie’s 1997 play about the impact of a Sunday newspaper’s change in ownership.
In truth it’s no Pravda, and Lucie is less interested in the process than Howard Brenton and David Hare had been 12 years earlier in their joint attack on a former commonwealth tycoon taking over the English Establishment’s newspaper. Neither script mentions the ‘M’ word, but we know who they must mean.
Lucie shows the outcome the day, following a contractual six month pause, axes start swinging during the proprietor’s daughter’s wedding. Along with the quaint morning-dress formality within which the Estuary accents operate, the stately mansion whose rooms become simultaneous waiting-rooms for unsuspecting victims emphasises the newly aggressive world.
Which opens the play, as Essex Girl rampant Nikki, a commercially successful novelist, becomes a celeb-appointment Features Editor, engaging in sexually-charged negotiation with the new editor, whom Malcolm Kirk gives a ruthless sense of purpose amid the celebrations.
He’s abetted by Alex Nash as Rob, his deputy and quiet enforcer, ushering the career-slaughtered out of the front-door to be transported post-haste back to London. Quietly efficient executioners, they leave once-assured journalists amazed and confused while being sacked or humiliated into resigning. Elsewhere, a sympathetic survivor tries tipping a wink to one of the doomed, while there’s a stock stale marriage isolating the political writer.
The shock of the new might be greater if Sebastien Blanc’s stolid production had looked for more surprise in its performances. Nikky’s indulgent triumphalism lessens its impact by excessive excess, while the values she’s kicking-out receive little support from an underwhelming characterisation. Not helped by uninventive direction, several later performances leave the focus fuzzy.
And the new men have an argument – that old ways no longer sell, while new technologies are round the corner threatening to mug the industry. Only the eventual bite-back from a foreign correspondent brings the sense of real battle and exposes deeper nastiness. Stephen Chance, feet up on the table, finally offers the sense of surprise and involvement largely lacking before.
Malcolm Kirk: Mario Demetriou.
Nikki Slater: Kristin McIlquham.
Rob Drummond: Alex Nash.
Raymond Snape: James Tweedy.
Dave Whistler: Andrew Taylor.
Budge: Luke Trebilcock.
Mike Viggers: Olivier Blanc/Max Warwick.
Waitress: Nelly Kalligas.
Stephen Toop: Seamus Newham.
Peter Brennan: Daniel Benoliel.
Alison Toop: Louise Templeton.
Harry Rees: Stephen Chance.
Bryan Fleming: Jim Barclay.
Director: Sebastien Blanc.
Designer: Kev Rice.
Lighting: Jethro Compton.
Sound: Ed Lewis.
Costume: Zahra Mansouri.