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PRESS by Nathaniel Brimmer-Beller at The Old Red Lion Theatre

According to Gregory Allen Howard, who wrote Harriet, a biopic of the black American abolitionist Harriet Tubman, one of his fellow studio executives initially suggested that the ideal actor for the part was Julia Roberts… and Michael Jackson has been played by another not-so-well-known person of colour Joseph Fiennes… We all make mistakes. However, there’s a mahoosive difference between making mistakes before #BLM and #MeToo and making them now.

PRESS by Nathaniel Brimmer-Beller - Credit Yussef Soudan.
PRESS by Nathaniel Brimmer-Beller – Credit Yussef Soudan.

That’s the dilemma facing David and Kate, two young film producers not unfamiliar to anyone who has gone to an awards ceremony or spent time in BAFTA 195 Piccadilly. A perfectly judged campaign has won a Best Picture nomination for their film – a Civil War epic called Catch Me Some Freedom – and it looks almost certain to win.

In a hilarious opening sequence, David faces an unseen interviewer. But interviewers pose no threats to David. He is perfectly tuned to the zeitgeist. Or at least he thinks he is. He knows what words not to use when describing the film and its sensitive subject, but when the interviewer springs a surprise on him he is simply lost for words. Could he and Kate really have been so crass as to cast a white reality tv star as an African-American slave…

That’ll be a Yes.

It is immediately clear to David and Kate that the ensuing publicity for Catch Me Some Freedom which – to understate things – “won’t be good”, will destroy them as well as their company. Faced with the threat of cancellation by the “digital pitchforks” of social media, their only option is to make sure the film doesn’t win, by fair means or foul…

Madeleine Chisholm-Scott is horribly convincing as Kate, but Press belongs to Nathaniel Brimmer-Beller who is fantastic as the duplicitous David. Brimmer-Beller is a rising young talent; as well as starring he wrote the play and co-directs alongside Phoebe Rowell-John who began her theatrical career with Chickenshed’s glorious Young Company. In keeping with its fringe origins, Press is short – only around 45 minutes – but it hits all of its targets and if David and Kate might not come out smiling, you certainly will. Any Hollywood producer, looking for a fresh take on the kinds of questions raised by Robert Altman’s The Player (1992) should hurry along to the Old Red Lion in Angel. Just make sure to get the casting right!

4 stars

Review by Louis Mazzini

It’s the big day. The announcement is in a few hours’ time, and film producers David and Kate anticipate their prestigious Civil War epic Catch Me Some Freedom will be nominated for plenty of Goldies. Until, however, they learn that the film’s heroic lead role, played by a white actor, was in real life actually Black. Fearing an intense and career-jeopardizing backlash, David and Kate frantically try to keep the film from getting any attention whatsoever.

Performance dates: 13th – 14th – 15th – 16th September
https://www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk/

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