‘Fake News’ has achieved widespread notoriety as a catchphrase that encapsulates many of the disturbing features of our times. So Osman Baig’s one-man show on this very topic is to be welcomed. Unfortunately, I was not entirely convinced by Baig’s monologue. Clearly very talented Baig has not only written Fake News but performs it with tremendous energy and brio. As a journalist, he has much to say about life in a newsroom. But his account of ‘Fake News’ and how it works just didn’t convince.
In this one-man show, Osman Baig takes to the stage and enters in medias res into a 50-minute monologue about life as a journalist on the millennialtimes.com. He frames the talk as an account to the new intake of unpaid interns about how he became famous overnight and secured a senior management position. He is at his best when describing the horrors of office politics. Think of The Thick of It or indeed The Office. His impersonations of his ghastly boss Debbie is well drawn. A cross between Cruella de Vil and Margaret Thatcher, she urges him to remember the three hallmarks of a writer on the millennial times: Fact, finesse and finance. Especially the latter. And he is spot on when he notes that journalism is not about the greatest story ever told but about the greatest story ever sold. I also enjoyed his account of “click bait” and how the chase for clicks is distorting our sense of what counts. As in cat videos and Jennifer Aniston’s hairstyle. Baig does all this very well and as a journalist obviously knows his stuff.
However, it is delivered in a non-stop breathless shouty tone which I found grating after ten minutes never mind 50. There is no change of pace or tone which I found turned the piece into a lecture. I having nothing against lectures but I don’t go to the theatre for a lecture. So my first quibble is about style and tone. More seriously I didn’t think that Baig delivered on the title: Fake News. There were lots about office politics but in terms of ‘Fake News’, the piece turns on the case of one story regarding a photo that mixes up Peter O’Toole and Osama Bin Laden. As an analysis of ‘Fake News’, this is nowhere near adequate. The issue of ‘Fake News’ is crying out for a show that can dissect its causes and consequences. In its present configuration, Baig’s Fake News is not it.
Review by John O’Brien
A young journalist lands a dream internship at the country’s biggest online news company. But a few months into the role – in a hasty bid to find a major scoop that will go viral – he inadvertently publishes a catastrophic error that risks unhinging his entire career. Is he about to lose it all – or is there no such thing as bad publicity
Fake News is the very real story of how our media is created and how it’s responding to the extraordinary times we live in.
This five-star show, described as “Funny, original and thought-provoking” (London Theatre Reviews) & “Sharp-witted and expertly crafted” (Entertainment Focus) is told by actor, writer and journalist Osman Baig, who brings unparalleled insight from his decade-long career at some of the world’s biggest news organisations. “One-man shows are rarely as engaging as Baig’s colourful rollercoaster ride” (South West Londoner).
This is the story you don’t want to miss.
23 – 28 October 2018
Paragon Theatre Collective present
by Osman Baig