Thursday, 11 September 2014

REVIEW: Great Britain at the Theatre Royal Haymarket

This play is a look at society and the media, its packed with laughs and clever humour but I left the theatre thinking how terrible of a person I am. We, as the public, are the ones buying the newspapers, looking at the articles online and scrolling on our twitter and facebook feeds to get the latest news. As said by Paige in the play, “That’s what we do, we destroy lives… but it’s on your behalf”. I can’t help but think that the play points out that its the publics fault that the media do so many terrible things for our benefit. The media thrive on attention from the public, this is particularly shown in the final scene where (after being arrested) Paige Britain gets her own TV show. So the real question that is being raised is, is it all our fault?

Its set at the office (amongst other locations) of ‘The Free Press’, a newspaper thats sold for 30p to the public. You have an insight to the cut throat industry who only care about how many people buy their paper. Paige Britain (See the link with the title?!) finds out how to hack phones and uses this to create exclusive content for their paper whilst also using it to blackmail people for scoops. 

As far as the story goes, I’m afraid to say there isn’t much development. I think Richard Bean has tried to attack too many tabloid stories that, at times, the characters and story get left behind. There are some relationships established in the play but not enough for you to actually care about the characters. I can’t say I connected to anyone in the play, its more just about what the awful things the media have done. 

For me, there was just a few too many things thrown into the play, there was a lot to try and keep up with and if at any point you were left behind, you wouldn't catch back up! Saying that, it was intelligently put together and I did enjoyed it. Its a play that allows us to laugh at the state of our country! However it does make you see how terrible we all are and what part we all play in these big stories!

Lucy Punch delivers a good performance as Paige Britain, she plays the character as a ruthless woman who will do anything to get what she wants. At times, she failed to pull of the sexy side of the character as it sometimes came across as a little goofy or geeky. Her character also has a lot of asides to the audience and most of them felt very artificial and disconnected to the story. It was more of a ‘I’m turning to the audience to make sure they’re keeping up with the story, ok now back into the action’ rather than a helpful narration. But I think this seemed to be a direction thing rather than a choice she had made.

This cast features an incredible ensemble of actors. When in the office scenes, you can see the different personalities that had been created and they were rounded and interesting. Even if one person only had a few lines you remembered them, theres not one person that over shone the others.

I also can’t finish this review with out making a mention to 59 Productions who designed the videos for the show, the production has video screens which double as pieces of set as well as being used to project news stories and videos on them. I loved how they used these in the play, a lot of the time video projection is over used in productions and makes you feel like you’ve gone to the cinema instead of the theatre but these were relevant and they used them to their advantage. 

This is a bold and ground breaking play and I would definitely recommend seeing it. One of the must see plays of 2014, there does however seem to be an unfinished vibe to it but after having gone through no previews at the National and going straight into the West End it is a good production with very good material. I would definitely recommend it to everyone. 

Rating: ★★★

Great Britain runs at the Theatre Royal Haymarket

Cast includes: Lucy Punch, Ben Mansfield, Sarah Annis, Ross Boatman, Robert Calvert, William Chubb, Dermot Crowley, Jo Dockery, Robert Glenister, Ian Hallard, James Harkness, Scott Karim, Barbara Kirby, Nicholas Lumley, Maggie McCarthy, Iain Mitchell, Miles Mitchell, Aaron Neil, Nick Sampson, Kellie Shirley, Kiruna Stamell, Harriet Thorpe, Rupert Vansittart, Joseph Wilkins and Andrew Woodall.

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