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Making News
Published on Saturday, 17 August 2013

3 stars

Pleasance Courtyard (venue website)
31 Jul, 1-11, 13-25 Aug, 1:00pm-2:15pm
Reviewed by Ellen Macpherson

 Recommended for age 12+ only.

I'm always a little wary of topical shows at the Fringe – but a satire on the BBC starring Phil Jupitius, Hal Cruttenden and Sara Pascoe seemed too good an opportunity to pass up. And judging by the packed theatre at Pleasance One, there were a lot of people thinking the same. This is by the same company who wrote last year's popular (and very similar) play Coalition, and after this fiasco of a year for the Beeb, it’s natural to move on to a production that pokes vicious fun at its controversies. Making News duly provides a lot of very intellectual laughter.

Considering the topical nature of the scenario though, the plot actually seems rather unbelievably farcical. Following up a story about a website hack, Panorama journalist Noel Quickly (Liam Williams) has a typically Panorama hunch about the Director General (Phil Jupitus) directing BBC funds to an outlandish cult of telepathic individuals known as the Million Man Mind. The news team at Six take it upon themselves to deal with the situation, trading many inside jokes about Salford in the meantime.

The nuances of plot were never going to be the strong point of this production – a corrupt DG and a charming everyman who reinforced a pro-BBC message (played by the flawless Hal Cruttenden) were all that that’s needed to create a strong appeal. Nevertheless, the characters do draw you in, and the inside jokes are accessible enough to anyone who knows anything about a BBC scandal. Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky certainly have a good understanding of office politics and groupthink, and the highlight of this production is that it really does feel like you're witnessing the typical newsroom.

The staging is fairly minimal, but perhaps was wrong for the venue. I sat quite close to the front and a lot of props were distractingly too high to be in view. Still, the set itself wasn't too important, obligatory news desks aside; this production is all about the acting, and the performances are duly fantastic. I was expecting a little more energy from Phil Jupitus, but I suppose that's because his character is a rather realistic DG of the BBC – disappointing and laid-back. Sara Pascoe provides some brilliant one-liners, but in the tension of the final scenes, her character does seem unbelievably blasé. To my mind, Hal Cruttenden takes the cake for best performance, for his vain, egoistic and yet somehow hugely endearing Jonathan McVeigh.

Overall, the show is very entertaining, but a little tame; I expected it to deliver more punch. However, it does feature a fantastic and dynamic cast, who carry their occasionally-one-dimensional characters to unexpected heights. And Spontaneity Shop have nothing to worry about – with this cast and this political mood, people will be snapping up tickets fast. If this is your area of interest, as it is mine, then you won't regret seeing it... if only to say that you saw the mighty Phil Jupitus descend to the levels of being in a telepathic cult.

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