Long Story Short at the Charing Cross
Long Story Short, Squint’s bold examination of journalism, social media and modern society, refuses easy answers or straightforward sympathies. Written by Lee Anderson, Adam Foster and director Andrew Whyment, the play tells two stories: in 1969, a young Australian businessman is on his way to the UK to buy a newspaper, while in 2012, 16-year-old Jamie posts a photo on Twitter which leads to chaos in a newsroom.
The play’s cast of eight do a remarkable job. Cole Edwards impresses as Jamie, desperate for news from his missing bother and getting caught up in a media frenzy that turns out to be beyond anyone’s control. Control, and lack thereof, is a major theme in this play, powerfully underscored by the show’s episodic style.
By juxtaposing various plot strands the production shines a light not only on the sometimes self-righteous and often self-preserving decisions of its media executives, but also on the dangers and opportunities afforded by social media, particularly Twitter and its merciless crowd of hashtaggers.
Neither the media nor their reality – which the writers researched by spending time in broadcast newsrooms – come off lightly in this play. But then, no one does. Instead, Long Story Short constantly asks its audience to question their sympathies by refusing to victimise or demonise any of the characters. Rather, it holds up to audiences their own complicity in turning news into a product of supply and demand.
At times, the production might have benefited from bringing its highly topical message across a little more concisely. While movement and Rhys Lewis’ versatile soundtrack successfully convey the frantic clutter of the modern newsroom, some of the choreographed interludes feel too long, causing the piece to undercut its own momentum. The beginning lacks clarity about some characters’ identities as actors doubled in multiple roles.
Ultimately, Long Story Short is a powerful and topical piece of theatre. Its transfer from an acclaimed run at South Hill Park and the Pleasance to the Charing Cross Theatre is well-deserved. Highly recommended.
Long Story Short is on at Charing Cross Theatre from 15th September until 11th October 2014, for further information or to book visit here.