Theatre Reviews

Headlines presented by Corner Theatre

29th November 2011

Reviewed for Listomania Bath

Headlines is six ‘two-hander’ plays, which are roughly ten minutes apiece and which cover a range of themes from the news world in 2011, the plays are linked together by short news report skits, which try to balance out some strong, and occasionally hard-hitting messages, with a little dash of comedy.

To be fair, there is some very well-balanced writing in the plays themselves, there are comedic touches, which mostly come from the fallibility of the human spirit; and it is humanity that is at the heart of Headlines as a whole. We are treated to, effectively, a behind-the-scenes look at the news, where the individual is given a voice. There is a great deal of experience in the writing and production team, from both sides of the Atlantic, with American director Nancy Medina at its core.

Perhaps the most complete play on show is the very English taleProduct Displacement, which places a policeman and a looter in a standoff, alone in a sports shoe shop, during the London riots. Writer Dom Rowe’s dialogue is an argument that becomes an understanding, John Lomas and Joe Shire perform the play with a sharp intensity, and it places you on the scene with them. It may not be reality as such, but neither is what the cameras and news reels show us either; this is a hyper-reality that we can relate to, and it should be applauded for that. We are not being desensitised or manipulated here, but are being shown a window into the lives of others.

Headlines is at its best when it forces us to wake up and share the emotions of our fellow brothers and sisters, and the most powerful connection we have is with the mother of Troy Davis, who was finally executed in September for the murder of a policeman, after twenty years on death row. Lorna Easy plays Virginia Davis in Shadows with such strong emotion that it becomes a simple story of a mother who grieves for her child, there is little room for any political or racial subtext here, she weeps real tears, and we feel her loss.

Credit must of course be given to all the actors, but Jason Bailey really stands out in two of the plays, where both times he plays a man in domestic strife. In Fries To Go, Martin is an adman trying to come up with a campaign to sell royal wedding themed burgers. Elizabeth Isaacs nails the part of cynical colleague, and angry mother of his child, yet Bailey manages to secure sympathy despite his foul temper and cringe-worthy ideas for the campaign. In Older Faults he plays the slacker partner of Sylvie, an ultra grounded geologist who is looking to end their relationship on good terms, Bailey’s Pete is in the throes of a mid-life crisis of sorts, and uses the approaching Hurricane Irene as a tool to block out his failings. Bailey plays paranoid and stoned like a 21st Century Marwood, Paul McGann’s I fromWithnail and I. Another of tonight’s stars, Alexis McDougall, plays Sylvie.

Older Faults explores briefly the notion of the power of the media to bend the psyche at will, but it resolves in a very human understanding. The Occupy Wall Street protests are handled in a similar vein, the personal and the political collide throughout the evening but we are left with the very clear message that it is the human heart that matters most. We must congratulate one and all, but perhaps mostly Medina for tying it all together in such an accessible way.