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Paperboy at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre | Review

Hope ultimately springs eternal in Paperboy, though part of me wonders if the (sort of) happy ending is more than a little contrived. Phoebe (Phoebe Taylor-Jones) is assistant to journalists Matt (Giorgia Valentino) and Matthew (Nandini Bulchandani), though what precisely she does is unclear, because – as the play would have it – the journos are more interested in the apparent status that having an assistant has than seeing to it that she uses her skillset to their benefit.

Paperboy at the Lion & Unicorn TheatreMatt is the sort of man that treats women more like objects than people, and much of the show is taken up by office banter that one might expect from certain newspapers (given their content). A major news story the duo is working on involves the death of a young socialite, and their conclusions, while hilarious, are indicative of an attitude that assumes bad things happen to women because they deserve it, and men can do no wrong.

Phoebe is, as would be reasonably expected, treated with condescension and disregard. The show is deliberately hammy, to demonstrate quite how ridiculous the journalists are. But it takes too long to make the point that there are still men out there, in the twenty-first century, who think of women as baby machines and not much else. Which begs the question: if Phoebe is as bad as every other woman, too prone to emotional outbursts and so on, why exactly did they employ a woman to join their team in the first place?

The answer lies in the pursuit of power: Matt is a legend in his own mind and having set up his own newspaper (who starts a new newspaper in the digital era?) he thinks he runs an empire. It is left to Phoebe to point out, quite elaborately as it happens, that the emperor has no clothes, and a hint of contriteness as the play ends suggests he might have seen the light.

Maybe. I take the view that Matt is so set in his ways he is beyond redemption. Others may beg to differ. It is to the production’s credit that the final scene leaves it up to the audience to determine what happens next. The publication of a misogynistic article from Matt could have been explored with more depth – with ‘Twitter wars’ acknowledged elsewhere in the play, for instance, a social media pile-on would have caused reputational damage to Matt’s publication.

Then again, perhaps the damage is effectively self-inflicted, and as Phoebe points out, there aren’t that many people who consider Matt to be a journalist worthy of respect. The production goes for laughs, but laced with such bitter disdain, the punchlines quickly wear thin. The play moves at a steady pace, and could do with some tightening: in one scene the audience watches Matthew leafing through a dictionary, which wasn’t exactly the highlight of the evening’s proceedings. I don’t doubt there are, sadly, plenty of organisations out there where such contemptuous viewpoints as the ones expressed in Paperboy remain prevalent. I’m just not fully convinced it makes for great theatre.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

A ridiculous, thought-provoking comedy exploring the dark sides of lad culture and toxic masculinity, and looking at when conversation goes from just a bit of banter to something more serious.

A woman in a bar actually told me that I “reminded her of Steve Carrell in The Office”. I mean, who doesn’t want to be like Steve Carrell? Great actor.

Two self-proclaimed “journalists”, Matt and Matthew, are the founders of newspaper The Desperate Times. Matt likes to think of himself as the top dog, saying and doing as he pleases, and hopefully making everyone else go wild with awe in the process; Matthew, meanwhile, is the beta male to Matt’s alpha, which in this case pretty much just means that he thinks a little more before he speaks (sometimes), and feels a little less compelled to constantly talk about his genitalia.

Supported by their long-suffering assistant, Phoebe, they think they’re the dog’s bollocks – although she’d probably say that in itself is a load of bollocks… So when the effects of boys’ cheeky chat start to show, is it really all as harmless as they think?

From writer Eve Lytollis and director Amy Tickner, ‘Paperboy’ is a ridiculous, thought-provoking comedy exploring the dark sides of lad culture and toxic masculinity, and looking at when conversation goes from just a bit of banter to something more serious.

SHOW INFORMATION:
WRITTEN BY: Eve Lytollis
DIRECTED BY: Amy Tickner
OTHER CREATIVES: Giorgia Valentino, Nandini Bulchandani, Phoebe Taylor-Jones (Cast)
https://www.thelionandunicorntheatre.com/

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