Writer: James Graham
Director: Daniel Evans & Sean Linnen
Instant nostalgia comes to Norwich as the curtain opens on this revival of James Graham’s Quiz, to give us the stage, the screen, and the chairs that filled just about every home once a week at the turn of the millennium. The show, based on the headline-grabbing ‘Coughing Major’ incident in Charles Ingram’s Who Wants to be a Millionaire run pokes light-hearted fun at it all, while of course exploring whether Charles and his wife really were guilty (that’s for the audience to decide).
Leading the show as Chris Tarrant, impressionist Rory Bremner is every bit as good of an impressionist as the audience hopes him to be. He seemingly effortlessly nails Tarrant’s ticks, facial expressions, elongated vowels, and even the way he sits in the iconic studio chair. Opposite Tarrant Lewis Reeves and Charley Webb as Charles and Diana Ingram have a somewhat watered-down Macbeth/Lady Macbeth vibe which works well through the first act. Reeves in particular creates a character whose manner moves with audience perspectives to make us question ourselves. There is, with this cast though, a sense of unease being on stage; there are fluffed lines occasionally which quickly become obvious when they’re started again.
With the case in question being so high profile at the time, a simple narrative of events would have fallen flat, but Graham has navigated this by playing with time jumps and intercepting scenes to give the show life. He has attempted at times to go deeper than simply looking at a cheating scandal to draw in considerations of class and power bias, which would have made for an interesting perspective. Unfortunately, it seems undermined by the pantomimic elements of the show which linger too long on impressions and easy gags.
The audience of Quiz are brought into the show thanks to a voting system for key points (a-la Ask the Audience) to decide on the Ingrams’ guilt or innocence as the narratives and perspectives shift and remind us the trial by media leaves a lot to be desired. This is certainly a cleverly implemented device which leaves the audience discussing and debating the trail all the way out of the theatre.
This is a show which at the same time wants to be a light-hearted look at a scandal and a scathing indictment of the times. At times swinging to one side or the other, it never really achieves either objective but nonetheless, it is undeniably an entertaining show which leaves the audience with something to think about.
Runs Until: 4 November 2023