The Theatre By The Lake
27 June 2011 WOS Rating: Reader Reviews: View and add to our user reviews Joe Penhall’s Dumb Show, first played in the West End some seven years ago, still feels like it was written yesterday. It opens with two bankers buttering up a TV star to try and get him to open an account with them, a perfect snapshot of the celeb with the world at his feet. But the ‘bankers’ are in fact tabloid journalists, setting up a sex ‘n’ drugs sting, which they duly execute. The breezy ‘Mr Saturday Night’ celeb is, of course, already falling apart, his career and marriage on the rocks. But Penhall’s play asks more of its audience than an easy sneer at both their houses. What do ‘the public’ have a right to ask of those in the public eye? And what about when persuasive arguments about public and private morality are put into the mouths of those who, simply, want to get the next sexy story as quickly as possible? Who uses whom? Both sides articulate powerful arguments about the relationship between celebrity and the press; in human terms, though, there is no contest in this production. The small studio setting of the play made its audience into voyeurs, spying on the action taking place in a single hotel bedroom. Matthew Vaughan, as the entrapped celeb Barry, gives us a convincing man on, and then over, the edge – so much so that it is sometimes difficult to see him as also the superstar whose secrets we’d all, perhaps shamefully, like to share. He is never much of a match for the amoral journalists Greg ( Matt Addis) and honeytrap specialist hack Liz ( Heather Saunders), who always look like getting under his skin. Both actors skilfully show how this kind of journalism is about preying on, rather than empathizing with, their target’s weakness, making the most of those moments when the audience can see their chilling lack of affect. Director Stefan Escreet effectively negotiates the confines of the studio space, making sure we see precisely what is going on. In fact, it is sometimes too easy to see what is going on, as Liz shows her hand to the audience a little too clearly for her interactions with Barry to pick up dramatic tension. This production pulls no punches - though once or twice it does telegraph them. A more subtle approach would give the audience a more satisfying evening. - Steve Longstaffe Related Content Back to Northwest Homepage
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