Review: Talk Radio, Old Red Lion

“I want you to start telling the truth”

Does Katie Hopkins possess a single ounce of remorse? How does Ann Coulter really feel about the audiences she continually bates? Does Piers Morgan have any self-awareness? Eric Bogosian’s play Talk Radio may date from 1987 but in its dissection of shock jocks and their role in manipulating media and fomenting the rise of the kind of right-wing ideology that has taken hold either side of the Atlantic, it can’t help but ring with resonance today.

The talking head of the day in Sean Turner’s excellent production is the jaded Barry Champlain, a no-holds-barred late-night talk show host who is coming to both revel in the prejudiced depths that his callers sink to and be repulsed by them. An offer to syndicate his Cleveland-area show nationally sets off a long dark night of the soul, where not even the glass walls of his radio booth seem to offer the same sort of protection that they once did.  Continue reading “Review: Talk Radio, Old Red Lion”

Review: After Independence, Arcola

“Why must your wound be healed by wounding me?”

The Papatango Theatre Company have long been at the forefront of new writing with their annual prize competition always one to look out for and now they’re expanding their territory, premiering a new piece from their first Resident Playwright here at the Arcola. Edinburgh-born May Sumbwanyambe’s family hails from right across Southern Africa and it is there, specifically, Zimbabwe, to which he has turned for After Independence.

Set at the end of the last century when a majority black government first came to power in Harare, the play circles the contentious issue of land grabs, as white farmers and landowners have their property redistributed – sometimes forcefully – to the black population. But though their claims look to the future, they deny the past of a population who consider themselves just as African, and thus the horns of a terrible dilemma present themselves. Continue reading “Review: After Independence, Arcola”

Review: No Villain, Old Red Lion

“The trick is to deliver when it’s hard”

It seems scarcely believable that as well regarded a playwright as Arthur Miller could have unproduced work lying around but director Sean Turner has played a blinder in unearthing his first ever play No Villain from the University of Michigan archive. Written for a playwriting competition there, it languished unpublished until Turner’s well-researched discovery and so now the Old Red Lion have quite the coup on their hands – a bona fide Arthur Miller world premiere.

And befitting the occasion, Turner’s creative team have produced some genuinely transformative work in the intimate space of this pub theatre, Max Dorey’s ingenious design doubling most effectively as a cramped New York apartment and the claustrophobic office of a failing garment company. The switch between the two is elegantly facilitated by Jack Weir’s lighting and both sets conjure living, breathing environments that work brilliantly as an extension of the drama.  Continue reading “Review: No Villain, Old Red Lion”

Review: Unscorched, Finborough

“You go through life thinking there’s a limit to the things people will do to each other. But there’s not. There’s just not”

The Papatango New Writing Prize is now in its fifth year and continues its excellent working relationship with the Finborough Theatre in offering a month’s full run to the winning play. And following on from such interesting works as Dawn King’s Foxfinder and Louise Monaghan’s Pack, Luke Owen’s Unscorched feels a worthy winner, an intriguing debut play which navigates its intensely serious subject matter with a supremely deft touch.

That subject is child abuse, but specifically how it impacts those whose job it is to investigate the images and films that are flagged up as crimes against children. Owen’s play follows Tom as he starts a new job in such a digital analysis team and explores how the pervasive effects of what he has to watch permeate into every aspect of his life. Echoes of what he sees and hears taint his sense of normality, the challenge to his faith in human nature threatening his burgeoning relationship with the sweet Emily.  Continue reading “Review: Unscorched, Finborough”