My sister's got Twitter to thank for this one: Someone mentioned that Steven Webb was on there (@MrStevieWebb
) and no sooner had I started following him than he tweeted that his new co-stars were Nigel Harman and Robert Daws. Penny of course loves La Harman so I got us front-row seats before the show's publicity had got going. Although frankly the publicity probably never got going enough, judging by there being a fair few empty seats despite this being a small venue. Shame really, as it's a show worth catching for good performances and a lot of funny moments.
Sam Peter Jackson's play follows Geoffrey, a newsreader (Daws) in the middle of a sex scandal. Caught by the paparazzi in his car with a half-naked teenager (Webb) he goes straight to his publicist Larry's (Harman) house with the boy in tow, and that's where almost all the play takes place. It quickly becomes apparent that there's going to be no chance of burying the story so instead it's a case of how best to salvage it and maybe even turn it to their advantage - especially as Geoffrey's autobiography has recently had disastrous reviews, perhaps they can test the "all publicity is good publicity" maxim to its limit.
The show's main strength is its humour - Jackson has lots of very funny, snappy lines and an experienced cast that know exactly how to deliver them. Daws is excellent, managing to be sympathetic despite betraying a lot of people along the way. While I've never said Steven Webb isn't
a pretty face, that's not the only reason to see him (honest) and I'm sure I've said before how nicely tuned his comic timing is. That's once again on display here with a lot of fairly subtle moments in between the sometimes broad stuff. And of course my sister would never forgive me if I didn't say that Nigel Harman is also not just a pretty face, and gives a great, slimy performance. Although Penny did say that in such a small theatre she had to look away when he got too close, or she'd be tempted to grab his arse. Resist, woman! As well as the onstage actors, a TV screen (which at other times provides background images on Helen Goddard's fairly simple set) shows TV reporters played by Natasha Little and Elize du
Toit, and a media pundit played by National Treasure Stephen FryTM
, all discussing the scandal. Quite game of Baroness Fry of Quite Interesting to do this, considering the characters spend all the time he's on screen calling him a cunt.
As far as the show's theme goes, obviously there's nothing new in the fact that the news is manipulated for PR purposes, and it would have been interesting if Jackson had focused more on the plot strand that the play's title implies, as Geoffrey resists apologising to the public at large. The very Daily Mail
concept that misbehaving celebrities owe an apology to people who are in no conceivable way affected would be an interesting one to explore more thoroughly. But while it may not have anything earth-shatteringly new to say, the show says it very entertainingly.Public Property
by Sam Peter Jackson is booking until the 5th of December at Trafalgar Studio 2.