Great Britain at the National Theatre
For legal reasons, Great Britain by Richard Bean (known for his successful One Man, Two Guvnors) has been in secret rehearsals before the verdict of the Rebekah Brooks trial was announced. Crashing The National Theatre’s website after a shock announcement this week, Nicholas Hytner directs this new play based on events associated with the scandal of the phone hacking.
The Free Press’s office, with a feisty, sexually charged, power-hungry news editor Paige Britain (Billie Piper) is open plan, with moving television screens and busy desks. The design is nothing short of slick – Tim Hatley outdoes himself on captivating simplicity with edgy fluidity in this thriving, bitchy office. Projected videos (Leo Warner) are packed with hilarity as they split the scenes, unfolding the scandals and the money fuelling the exchanges of stories and cover ups. The sole focus, is more stories equals more readers.
Every cast member contributes fabulously to this satirical, hilarious journey of deception, inception and fraud. The audience are addressed directly by various characters in subtly revealing soliloquies, mainly by our lead Brit. Piper brings such sexy, persuasive arrogance to the role, scarily, you want her to get away with her actions.
Of course, the controversial nature of this piece is the fact that the acts that these characters play out did happen. They echo the voicemail hacking of murdered teenager Milly Dowler’s phone and this is harrowing in parts; the audience feels disgusted at themselves for howling their way through the previous, witty scenes. Bean’s intelligent writing possesses and traps the audience into empathising with the criminals at The Free Press then shatters the facade in death and the effect media can have on a living human life.
A slightly slow-starting Act One can be forgiven with the smashingly punchy Act Two. Scandalous, yet vitally relevant theatre, Hytner ensures this shocking discussion is brought to the forefront on a National Theatre stage, and that it’s okay to poke fun at the criminals but not forget the seriousness of their actions – the devastation to the lives they publicise and then leave behind.
Great Britain is at the National Theatre from 30th June until 23rd August 2014. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.