News News News
Andy Field and Beckie Darlington, with pupils from St Margaret's Primary School, Whalley Range
Cambridge Junction and Norfolk & Norwich Festival.
Contact , Manchester
It is hard to think of a worse week in which to host a show called News News News. The present state of the world is so grim, the title alone is likely to send potential audiences running for the hills. However, the concept of the show, created by Andy Field and Beckie Darlington with local schoolchildren (in the case of Contact the pupils come from St Margaret's Primary School in Whalley Range) is to offer a child’s eye view of the news.
This is clear from the opening of the show in which ten children, in media-friendly nondescript white shirt and tie uniforms, state they find the ‘real’ news, obsessed with COVID and Boris Johnson (‘’He’s not funny!’’), to be boring. Besides, only old people watch TV these days. So, the children set out to produce their own news show. It is hard to avoid the impression they might be doing so based on concepts of which they have heard but not completely understood. Fact checking is undertaken not by way of research but rather asking audience members if certain statements are true or false.
News News News comprises the broadcast of a news show preceded by the preparation of the contents: interviews, editorial and so on. The interviews are conducted by telephone and in person with audience members leading to some gorgeous comedy moments—the question ‘’Do you know his parents?’’ gets the answer ‘’I am his parent’’. The results of the interviews are fed into the broadcast as ‘breaking news’ items—Josie can do backflips; an audience member enjoys singing with the choir.
The second half of the show, the actual broadcast, is delivered by a pair of newsreaders linking in filmed news items. The show is broadcast on screen at the theatre and also online. True to the child’s eye view concept, scrolling news items across the bottom of the screen give priority to topics of interest to the young—focus groups comprising children under 12 object to the 12+ rating on Fortnite (whatever that is) and an awards ceremony is not named but just described as ‘posh’.
The subjects of the filmed inserts could be described as ‘the usual suspects’—homelessness, air pollution, endangered species—of concern to most liberal news editors. The approach is to balance the pupils undertaking research in the field with interviews with experts on the subject. There are startling moments—a rare recording of an MP speaking the truth by admitting she is highly paid. An expert on air pollution giving somewhat obscure answers until asked what an average person can do to reduce the problem then making the simple reply, "stop driving,’’ along with a beautifully concise explanation of the reasoning.
The possibility the show could descend into a posh presentation to school assembly is avoided by the attitude of the pupils. Their style combines cheekiness with a naïve innocence and a refreshing irreverence. The Floor Manager and Newsreader can barely keep a straight face (the latter announces as part of the broadcast she has passed her grammar test). The realisation endangered species are unlikely to be found near the school is greeted with the immortal comment: "Facts, bro!". A weather report is delivered by a reporter jumping off the stage, running out of the theatre and describing conditions outside. There is no sense of the audience laughing at the pupils but rather enjoying the opportunity to share in their fun and games.
A combination of gravitas and downright silliness makes News News News a hugely enjoyable show—it will make even the most jaded audience member feel young (well, young-ish).
Reviewer: David Cunningham