Review: Fake News
Kings Arms theatre, Salford.
Billed as an ‘80s neon nightmare psychodrama, Vertigo theatre productions latest work certainly lives up to the neon part of the title. As for the nightmare and psychodrama…
Anyone expecting this to be a tale about Trump and the whole “fake news” twitter hashtag he loves to spout can leave their preconceptions at the door, right up until the last minute, which is really where this play sadly fails.
Until this very last moment, it’s a well written, superbly cast and very watchable, if easily signposted work of fiction.
Loosely based on the story of disgraced writer Stephen Glass, as well as other liars who have claimed to be journalists, and been nothing of the sort, writer and director Craig Hepworth manages to make a humdrum tale of lies and deceit into a very watchable 2 plus hours of theatre.
Richard Allen (Porno Chic, OUT) is very believable as the journalist Benjamin Davenport II, willing to do anything to live up to and then surpass his late father’s Pulitzer winning reputation, despite having no morals, training or conscience he manages to use his father’s contacts at the New York New York Chronicle to get a job and proceeds to use everyone at the paper in his own quest for glory.
As we see Benjamins lies gain the paper a boost in sales, we see his co-workers bigger and genuine stories relegated to inside pages as his boss, Andrea, played by the always dependable Emma Morgan (Happy Valley, Hollyoaks) see her precarious position made safe, despite her doubts about his methods.
When he finds out his long-term girlfriend, Brenda (Anna Hickling) is pregnant, he does all he can to avoid home, and ends up taking up with a stripper he met on an office night out, Candy (Maya Szachetko) who he spends his nights with in a seedy pay by the hour motel.
When a killer leaves a cryptic message scrawled on the body of a dead hooker whose heart he (or she) has cut out, Benjamin spots a chance to really make a name for himself as the reporter who covered a serial killer.
Suffice to say, as the play winds on, there is murder and intrigue aplenty.
The play is very subtly lit, with plenty of fake neon special effects, designed and created by co-producer Karl Burge, with each location having its own themed colour. The casts glasses and ties are a true delight to see in the dark!
Sadly, for me, the final scene lets the whole premise of the play down.
To attach Davenport to the current occupant of the White House seemed like a weak cop out of an ending. There was so much more Hepworth could have done with his lead, and to dump him into that tawdry soap opera really is beneath someone of his obvious writing skills. Having marvelled over Noir and Watching Goldfish Suffocate, I really expected a stronger finish to this play, but felt let down by such a damp squib of a final scene.