Pravda, David Hare’s warning about the death of Fleet Street and the coming of Murdoch, is now 30 years old. While some at least of what Hare predicted has not come true the play retains its bite.
The Tower Theatre Company’s new production delivers some good moments but overall is less successful than it could have been. The production lacks pace at times and, while the simple set is effective – a stage covered with newspaper print as a metaphor for how LeRoux and his real-life counterparts walked all over the traditional press – there is much that could and should be improved. Scene changes that should take place behind brief tableaux of “press” activity instead take place in front of the audience. There are telephone-related malfunctions on stage, which generally cannot be helped, but several curtain-related ones in the wings, which simply shouldn’t happen and suggest the stage manager should tighten discipline.
On the positive, the cavernous space of the Bridewell is used well for the multiple scene changes and the lighting and sound are effective. As Lambert Le Roux, a reptilian newspaper magnate, Max Fisher is properly menacing but his accent, while rightly and successfully played for comedic effect, is at times impenetrable, no more so than in the final word of the play. As Le Roux’s protégé, Oliver Ferriman conveys well the moral dilemmas that come with dining with the devil but, as his wife, Hannah West has little to do in a part that feels very underwritten. Ciara Robley is outstanding as the wife of Le Roux as is Nigel Campbell, playing an editor who falls foul of Le Roux’s machinations.
Among the wider ensemble too, there are other very good performances – Bill Boyd as the Bishop of Putney and Madeline Gordon, who demonstrates excellent comic timing as a bemused journalist and a drunk princess, while Michael Mayne is thoroughly convincing in various roles and David Hankinson plays a corrupt MP as if he was born to it. However, there are weaknesses too with some of the cast seemingly unsure how far over the top they should go and others whose acting falls short of the Tower’s normally high standards.
Pravda is an excellent play, and the Tower has timed its revival well, but this production needs a little more polish.
Review by Louis Mazzini
It’s 1985 and Lambert Le Roux is a South African press baron who dominates the British newspaper industry. He headhunts Andrew – a young, inexperienced journalist – to run his most recent acquisition, but it’s only a matter of time before Andrew’s conscience collides with what Le Roux is asking of him. Will integrity triumph over ambition?
Winner of the 1985 Evening Standard Best Play Award, Brenton and Hare’s biting comedy still asks pertinent questions thirty years after it was first performed. Pravda (Russian for “truth”) shows us what happens to the news before it reaches us.
Andrew May : Oliver Ferriman
Lambert Le Roux : Max Fisher
Eaton Sylvester : Nick Mouton
Michael Quince MP : David Hankinson
Elliot Fruit-Norton : Nigel Campbell
Rebecca Foley : Hannah West
Bill Smiley : Calvin Crawley
Sir Stamford Foley : John Chapman
Hamish McLennan : John McSpadyen
Harry Morrison : Robert Orchard
Cindy : Ciara Robley
Moira Patterson : Madeleine Gordon
Dennis Payne : Nigel Oram
Lord Ben Silk : John McSpadyen
Bishop of Putney : Bill Boyd
Cliveden Whicker-Baskett : Robert Orchard
Mack “Whipper” Wellington : John Chapman
Larry Punt : Christopher O’Dea
Doug Fantom : Ian Hoare
Leander Scroop : Nigel Oram
“Breaker” Bond : Michael Mayne
Princess Jill : Madeleine Gordon
Donna Le Roux : Ciara Robley
Ian Ape-Warden : Nigel Oram
Hannon Spot : Michael Mayne
Bert : Ian Hoare
Ensemble : Julia Collier, Jill Ruane, Madeleine Gordon
Director : Louise Bakker
Set Design : Lisa Castle
Costume Design : Kathleen Morrison
assisted by David Taylor
Lighting Design : Laurence Tuerk
Sound Design : Rob Ellis
Stage Manager : Kat Newbould
Assistant Director : Julia Collier
DSM : Stephen Brasher
ASMs: Karen Hope, Hindatu Yvonne Comma
Lighting Operator : Rob Hebblethwaite
Sound Operator : Kaushal Ginige
Fight Director : Richard Kirby
Voice Coach : Jessica Hammett
Set Construction and Get-in : Keith Syrett, Dom Ward, Zahra Mansouri, Nick Insley, Stephen Ley, Colin Guthrie, Rob Irvine, Martin Mulgrew
Evenings at 7.30
Tuesday 7th – Saturday 11th November
Matinée at 3.00
Saturday 11th November