Many people imagine that Britain is a democracy where an intrepid press is free to report the world the way it really is. Yet the biggest news organisation in the country, the BBC, failed to notice that one of its own employees, Jimmy Savile, was a monstrous sexual abuser. But then neither did any other publication or the police he used to regularly dine with notice.
The monologue Press written and performed by Sam Hoare doesn’t revisit the Savile affair but draws on events that have happened in this country and elsewhere to illustrate not only the way the media can at times act in a fairly immoral way but also how governments can deal incredibly harshly with journalists who report inconvenient truths.
It’s a thoughtful, engaging play directed by Romola Garai in three phases. Sam arrives to the performance space that looks like a down-at-heel pub. He might in this opening section be a rather good stand-up comedian telling us a story of his marital difficulties that include returning home to find “this guy going down on my wife doing a fantastic job.” Not surprisingly, it sours their relationship, which is made worse when, distracted, he walks the dog without a lead getting it killed and in his distress loses his wallet. This leads him to ask those listening if they can spare him the price of a drink.
It’s a scam on the imagined listeners in the pub which Sam has been reproducing to illustrate the way people can be fooled, but it then moves to the second phase of the show. As an ex-public schoolboy, he gets a job with a newspaper via an old mate from the rugby team. He tells us two stories of stitching up victims for the sake of sensational headlines and promotion. One is an elderly man who is easily woven into some moral panic about paedophiles. Another smears the name of a young girl murdered because, as he points out, the dead can’t do you for defamation.
The third section takes us to an imagined Britain where anti-refugee prejudice has resulted in a massacre of ten young men by security forces. The journalist is sent to gaol for reporting what happened. The particular event being transposed from Myanmar, we very briefly at the end of the play see projected onto the back wall a picture from that country of ten young men being guarded by security forces.
Sam Hoare is a fine, engaging performer with a fluent, entertaining text that moves from a mildly amusing start to a shocking finish. Many of us recognise its accuracy and I’m sure Julian Assange would give you strong reasons why it's a difficult situation to change, but it's not a story that will find its way into much of the legacy media.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna