Writer/ Director: Craig Hepworth
Reviewer: Matt Forrest
Theatre Company Vertigo has been making waves for 10 years. Set up by partners Craig Hepworth and Karl Burge, the company has had a great deal of critical success with the award-winning Porno Chic and the award-nominated Black Ice. For their next project, they have decided to take a look at the world of sensational journalism and how it can be used to distract from the bigger and more important topics of the day.
Set in New York in 1989, Fake News tells the story of Benjamin Davenport II, the son of a highly respected journalist whose work on the Son of Sam killings earned him international recognition and praise. Benjamin wishes to not just emulate the work of his father but eclipse him: upon landing a junior position at the New York – New York Chronicle, he decides that the public want scandal and sensationalism rather than hard news: so he goes about fabricating stories in a bid to become the number one reporter. However this will only take Benjamin so far and with pressure mounting from a pregnant girlfriend, and the battle to be the number one reporter, Benjamin takes murderous action in a bid to stay top dog.
This is an interesting, entertaining but flawed production, which raises some key points about the media and our manipulation, however, is let down by its execution. Richard Allen is clearly having a ball as the unhinged, charismatic sociopath Benjamin Davenport II: very much in the Patrick Bateman mould – his over-the-top performance is just what is needed to bring the monstrous Davenport II to life. He is supported by a fine, hardworking cast who work their socks off throughout.
The main problem is the script: it’s a novel thought-provoking premise that has a great deal of relevance today. It’s filled with dark comic humour that on the whole, works. The main issue is that the script could do with a good edit: the play is at least 30 minutes too long. The play goes to great lengths to establish Davenport II as the loathsome individual he is, but this at times is laboured. In addition, the final act is somewhat patronising to the audience.
Where Fake News does succeed, is that it looks and sounds fantastic. The video clips by Karl Burge add a much needed sleazy quality. There is also a killer soundtrack which includes: The Cars, New Order and Phil Collins and this really anchors the production, if only for the nostalgia trip. In addition, the cast are shown sporting neon glasses with various neon props – a fantastic visual. One area of concern; there were a few lighting issues that were at times distracting and really need sorting out.
Overall this is a bold, brave, darkly comic satire, that like the decade of the 80’s has a little too much excess for it to be remembered as fondly as it wants to be.
Runs until 28 April 2018 | Image: Contributed