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Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
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Too many interviews, as well as too many cooks, have spoiled this broth of a promenade show about journalism, which sprawls untidily and unfocussed around and throughout a modern city warehouse.

While purporting to show an industry on the cliff-edge - with very little reference, surprisingly, to the decline in sales, phone hacking or the Leveson inquiry - it ends up distilling every cliché in the book while failing to cohere as a theatrical entity.

The project is a collaboration between the National Theatre of Scotland (Vicky Featherstone and John Tiffany co-editing and directing), the London Review of Books (Andrew O'Hagan co-editing) and three journalists – Paul Flynn, Deborah Orr and Ruth Wishart – who conducted the interviews.

Orr’s interview with Roger Alton, former editor of the Observer and now a Times executive, is the best thing in the show – but only as it reveals something pragmatic about Alton in moving from one side of the fence to the other, and the pressures on a writer expected to produce 7,000 words a week.

And though news of the Daily Express campaign to raise £1m for the Sudan is interesting, it doesn’t contribute to any point of view or statement about the morality of news gathering. You wonder, in fact, why a newspaper should see itself as a charity.

“There’s no magic in the internet,” says one old-timer, but the odd scene at an editorial conference bears as much relation to the world of The Front Page as a morning in nursery school to the educational policy of Michael Gove; none at all, in fact. And the thrill of the chase, or the crackle of good writing, is taken as read.

Forty-five British journalists were interviewed, highlighting the perennial weakness of verbatim theatre - a fatal lack of any distinctive or unifying voice.

The audience shuffles around office furniture and piles of old newspapers, picking up odd nuggets about reflex liberals at the Guardian, or  back-stabbing at the Mail (which has the most read website in the world), while pointing out - as though it were a great surprise - that irreproachable campaigning journalists also work for Rupert Murdoch.

None of this leads anywhere except to the inevitable conclusion (is it?) that print journalism will soon become an add-on to the online variety and that the stranglehold of Oxbridge and El Vino's is a thing of the past. Jobs for the boys will disappear as boys now have to invent their own jobs (“I’m off to do my blog,” cries a voice on the scrapheap).

The busy cast of six Scottish actors include such venerable performers as Maureen Beattie, John Bett and Billy Riddoch, but they are spouting bits and bobs rather than creating a world of good and bad news. Head-lines are only the tip of the iceberg, the top of the story. Surely good journalism will survive an imploded, even decimated, industry? But how?


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