Clarion at the Arcola
Playwright Mark Jagasia is a former UK journalist with the inside scoop on the industry’s icky underbelly. In his current play at East London’s hip Arcola Theatre, Greg Hicks stars as Morris Honeymoon, the tyrannical overlord editor of The Daily Clarion: Britain’s worst newspaper.
Morris is bombastic, sinewy and shamelessly sales hungry. He regularly dons a red-fringed galea, fancying himself something of a modern-day Caesar, and loves nothing more than to blast his horn at morning meetings in rejection of employees’ pitches. Verity, played by Clare Higgins, is a world-weary Fleet Street veteran who was once a respected foreign correspondent, but has since fallen from grace and wound up sipping whiskey in not-so-secret corners of the Clarion’s offices, while she bemoans the state of modern journalism and modern life itself.
A day in the life of the Clarion is a ridiculous, frenzied scramble to land the latest story: immigration overload, the evils of Islam, celebrity “scandals” that are severely lacking in actual scandal…anything to sell papers and appease Benny, the newspaper’s invisible Cypriot benefactor. But how long can the Clarion hope to survive as peddlers of sensationalised half-truths? Don’t the people want more? Isn’t Britain better than that? And, more to the point, have the Clarion’s dodgy dealings finally gone too far, thereby threatening to expose the whole game?
The plot of this play almost ticks along in the background while the moment-by-moment monologues shine. There’s fascist Morris on the decline of Britain, the rise of liberalism, the Saudi-owned unrecognisable skyline, the evils of lattes, Glastonbury, iPhones and porn. There’s Verity on the ghosts of Fleet Street, and the loss of ambiguity for the sake of absolutism. The script races and soars with a wonderful frustrated energy that smacks of Edina Monsoon in Absolutely Fabulous, but with less SweetieDarlings. It is a scarily, scarily familiar panorama of the modern mediascape but, helpfully, it is also hilarious. Albert, played by Jim Bywater, is particularly wonderful as Morris’ geriatric, halfwit, right-hand man, with red suspenders and perfect comedic timing. The rest of the cast is solid and if Jagasia has done his job, the whole production will make audiences think twice about ever reading The Daily Mail again. Not even ironically.
Clarion is on at Arcola Theatre from 22nd April 2015 until 16th May 2015, for further information or to book visit here.