Hope Theatre, Islington (venue)
27 February 2020 (released)
04 March 2020
Have you ever wondered what happens inside the press office of a company during a suspected terrorist incident? Well, if you watch ‘Tell it Slant’ you may be a little disappointed to discover the mundane reality. Apparently the phone ringing incessantly, the press officers tell the journalists their statement is that there is no statement and they get extremely hungry. With the drama decidedly off-stage, the debates focus on the importance of timing a press release, how rude journalists can be on the phone and whether ‘the boss’ would screw up a live interview. And then it turns out it’s not a terrorist incident after all. Disaster as entertainment is off the menu.
Director Erica Miller with designer Constance Villemot have been at pains to let us know that this is a depressingly ‘real’ office. No fake news here. The stage is filled with dreary grey desks, creaking computers, wilted plants and stacks of paper. Dara (played by Joshua Jewkes) has worked there forever, a classic bore who witters on cynically and throws un-threatening tantrums about managing a cat related story. Sam (Alia Sohail) sits at her computer like she’s been there for eternity with a convincingly good-natured cynicism. After we’ve had a thorough going over of the trouble with the cat story and the high turn-over of staff, newbie, Vick arrives for her first day. It turns out she’s snogged Dara at a wedding on more than one occasion. Awkward. Despite the best efforts of the actors, this pairing felt like a non-starter from the off and the romantic comedy never quite finds its legs.
According to the press release, ‘Tell it slant was written without specifying a gender…Dara and Vick will alternate throughout the run, showing how the story and characters change, or don’t, when one is a man and one is a woman.’ A nice idea but one which is presumably only interesting for the stage manager, the actors and a super fan? That said, it did make me wonder whether Cliodhna McCorely who has a very engaging presence would be better cast as Dara. No doubt it would change the dynamic of the play although I’m not sure for reasons of gender.
‘Tell it Slant’ aims to delight with romance, comedy, tragedy and PR skills but somehow gets bogged down in the pursuit of naturalism. That said, having been a senior communications officer for the House of Commons, Maev Mac Coille’s script has enormous detail and plenty of insight into the theme of ‘fake news.’ And at the end of the 90 minutes we are rewarded with some excellent Christmas jumpers.