Sometimes, going to the theatre can be like riding a roller-coaster you’ve never been on before. Stay with me on this. First you take your seat with a rosy glow of anticipation. Then the ride starts and there is that slow, gentle movement of the car from the bottom to the top of the incline. Then just as you are wondering if the ride is ever going to start properly, wham! Your car goes over the top and shoots down the first drop, filling you with excitement as you experience the twists and turns of the ride. If you want to see proof of this analogy, then pop along to the Barons Court Theatre and watch Ian Buckley’s play Realife TV
Angela (Roseanna Frascona) is a rising star at REALIFE TV. She is young, ambitious and waiting for that one story that will change her life and turn her into the high-powered reporter/director she knows she will one day be. She records a video diary, enabling her to articulate her thoughts and be prepared for her big break. And then a story appears in the shape of a young man (Fed Zanni) who has completely lost his memory. Quick as the proverbial flash, Angela’s boss, Jason (Alex Jones) sends her off with a camera to get this real life human interest story on film. Angela gets to know the man, she uses various relaxation techniques to draw out information from him, including his real name – Carl – and the fact he has a wife named Helen (Katrina Cooke). As Carl remembers more and his story intensifies, Angela gets drawn into the lives of him and Helen and with the backing of her boss, she keeps the camera going until finally she finds herself in way above her neck.
Honesty time here. Realife TV is a slow burner. About 20 minutes in, I was wondering where exactly it was heading and, truthfully, how much I cared. And then my relaxed complacency was knocked out of me, and I spent virtually the rest of the play sat on the edge of my seat as I went through the story with the characters. Ian Buckley’s writing grabbed the audience and shook them around, continually building the story to its unexpected conclusion.
The acting was first rate throughout, and it does seem wrong to single anyone out for special praise. Roseanna was on stage pretty much all of the time and managed to convey the young, driven girl who has her innocence taken away beautifully. Katarina’s Helen was both vulnerable and strong at the same time. Both in love and out of love with her husband and, always ready to do whatever it took to protect her family. I really can’t say too much about Fed Zanni’s performance as Carl as I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but he was pretty amazing in an extremely intense role. I also liked Alex Jones as Jason, though I did think, given the character’s experience in the TV industry, he would have been to be a bit more cynical and hard nosed in his dealings with Angela – particularly the final scene they had together.
Director Anthony Shrubsall made very effective use of the small stage area, ensuring that all the audience – sat on three sides of the stage – were kept engaged. Fiona McKeon’s set design – with the excellent wall projections – really worked well to convey the various places where the action took place.
Overall then I thought Realife TV was an interesting show. Despite the slow start, after ninety minutes, I left the theatre having gone through the wringer emotionally and, also wondering what, if I had been in Angela’s position, I would have done. My companion and I had an interesting chat about some of the motivation behind the various characters’ actions and, as we walked and talked, realised what a great piece of theatre we had both experienced. This is not a show for the faint-hearted, when things happen, they really happen big time, but it is definitely a good show to illustrate the way the world is going with reality TV and maybe raise the question of where exactly is the line between what is and what is not acceptable.
Review by Terry Eastham
On from 17 May 2016 till 29 May 2016
Barons Court Theatre
by IAN BUCKLEY
“REALIFE TV” by Ian Buckley
Directed by Anthony Shrubsall
Dynamic young film-maker Angela is excited by her latest assignment – the case of the man with the missing past. What better starting point for an episode of the Realife human-interest series? But soon she finds all is not what it seems. She’s navigating dangerous waters which threaten to overwhelm her. As events begin to slip out of control, who can she turn to for help?
Buckley’s latest play deals with the relationship between a media machine hungry for stories and the ordinary people who are their fodder. Based on real events, he paints a picture of talented film-makers who struggle to reconcile their desire to do good with their need for a good story.
Tuesdays to Saturdays (7.30 p.m.)
Sundays (6.30 p.m.)
Additiional Matinees: Saturdays (2.30 p.m.)
The Barons Court Theatre,
28A Comeragh Rd, London W14 9RH