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Press By Sam Hoare at Park Theatre

Some journalists get, as it were, a bad press, though some of them don’t help themselves with some of the things they write and do. This play doesn’t, overall, say anything that won’t already be known to people who have an interest in newspapers and how they operate, particularly when it comes to the lengths journalists are prepared to go to in order to get a story they deem to be newsworthy.

PRESS at ParkTheatre. Credit Steve Gregson.
PRESS at ParkTheatre. Credit Steve Gregson.

Matt Bradley (Sam Hoare) tells his story involving both his personal and professional lives – he met his wife one evening because she saw through one of his many alter egos. In a case of ‘opposites attract’, she has a dislike of tabloid journalism, and as the narrative unravels it appears this is somewhat justified. She falls pregnant, and as the old adage would have it, anyone can make a baby but it takes a man to be a father: so he proposes.

There are some interesting insights into the world of newspapers – many of them are indeed owned and run by wealthy families with political agendas. Depending on which one a journalist is writing for, a given story might be deemed worthy of the front page, or unworthy of being published at all, or something in between. But there’s another play somewhere (this isn’t it) about the stories that don’t make it into the mainstream press of any political persuasion, even if there is the genuine potential of selling more papers as a result of printing them.

Matt is prepared to talk about “the shadow people”, but it’s not easy to make the connections between the heavyweights in newspaper journalism and the captains of industry and other influential figures in politics, financial services and the legal profession (and so on), without specific examples of collusion and under the table collaborations that are instead merely alluded to. The play’s conclusion comes suddenly, in the form of a projected photograph, of an actual and still ongoing event. I had to look up the significance of the photo afterwards, and it wasn’t explicitly referred to in the play itself, so its inclusion is frankly more than a little baffling.

That said, Hoare’s Matt does spin a good yarn, which gives the play some credibility as a story about a journalist who is prepared to take risks in the name of personal career progression. Still, some pretentiousness seeps through eventually, when Matt switches to taking the moral high ground because of the treatment of refugees in the United Kingdom, or rather a version of the UK that has somehow acquired an even worse Government than its current one. The play seems to suggest that Blighty isn’t that far off from having the freedom of the press significantly curtailed by the state as well as ‘the shadow people’.

Press, for the most part, covers familiar ground, and very little, if anything, is surprising – it is, in the end, one of many attacks on mainstream media. The production covers an engaging and important issue, but I find it difficult to believe there are very many people out there who think all of a given story’s details must be irrefutably true because they read it in a British tabloid.

3 Star Review

Matt doesn’t need you to like him. He doesn’t care. He’s done some terrible things and his attempts to remedy them have come to no good either.

Maybe it’s the journalist in him, but he needs someone to listen. To his story, as an ex-tabloid hack who made a living doing whatever was necessary, whatever the cost. But things have gone badly wrong and now it’s time to bring his skeletons out of the closet. How can so much have been done with so few consequences? And how can the telling of truth be so infinitely more dangerous than the telling of lies? Might his one attempt to be a ‘good person’ end in him losing everything dear to him. Will you laugh with him – or at least at him – for a moment; Matt needs someone to understand.

This new play examines the freedoms afforded to the press in the UK compared to some other countries. Can one man safeguard the truth and protect his family?

Park Theatre presents the World Premiere of
By Sam Hoare
Directed by Romola Garai

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