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Public Property

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Married male television newscaster Geoffrey Hammond, vainly cultivating celebrity status, is embroiled in a sex tryst with a 16 year-old boy, and his publicist tries to engineer an escape from trial by media.

There’s something almost too strenuously topical in playwright Sam Peter Jackson’s bending of “celebrity in the spotlight” issues – the newscaster’s autobiography has been panned in the press and he has a male lover as well as the wife at home – but he writes a nifty scene.

Hannah Berrigan’s close-up production in the coffin-like smaller studio sets up some ticklish dramatic situations with one or two unexpected twists between the interlocked trio. There are areas of drift, though, and the final plot lever is weakly oiled and engineered.

But this is a promising venture by 22 year-old producer Tara Wilkinson’s Whippet Productions and she’s certainly done a good job on casting and presentation.

Robert Daws is outstanding as the flustered telly celeb, resembling a slimmed down version of the late Richard Whiteley (the old Countdown presenter), only much better dressed, and switching desperately, over twenty-four hours, between defiance and helplessness.

Nigel Harman is as smooth as a creme caramel dessert as the PR man Larry De Vries (wearing exceedingly fine shoes), an alleged ex-coke head with debts and a curiously unmotivated line in destructive malice, suitably enough in a building where Lenny Henry is still playing Othello upstairs.

And Steven Webb, looking over-age as the 16 year-old Jamie, is a beautifully observed study in pimply manipulation. Helen Goddard’s design even includes video film of Stephen Fry as a media pundit mulling over the (unseen) newspaper pictures of the sex jape in Geoffrey’s car.

Which begs the question: why didn’t Geoff twig “set-up” when he spotted paparazzi lurking about in the hotel car park where Jamie first approaches him, late at night? There ensue some unsavoury details of what happened in the motor (nothing you ever hear about on Top Gear), and whatever is funny about “hot chocolate” passed me by. I’ll stick to cocoa, I think.

There’s a ruse to make Geoffrey apologise to his public and eat dirt by appearing on a Channel Five celebrity dental practice reality show, but by then we’re caught in an over-complicated spiral of who’s best friends with whom, and the show expires on a neatly contrived pay-off. Love lurks, but never really looms.


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