James Graham
Chichester Festival Theatre
Theatre Royal Newcastle-Upon-Tyne

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The cast of Quiz Credit: Johan Persson
Rory Bremner as Chris Tarrant Credit: Johan Persson
Charley Webb as Diana Ingram Credit: Johan Persson
Mark Benton as David Liddiment Credit: Johan Persson
Lewis Reeves as Charles Ingram Credit: Johan Persson
Danielle Henry as Woodley QC, Rory Bremner as Chris Tarrant, Leo Wringer as Hilliard QC Credit: Johan Persson

Many may wish to be a millionaire but not all at any cost. A British major, Charles Ingram (Lewis Reeves), is, in the opinion of many, an exception.

Quiz centres on the true story of Charles Ingram who later came to be known as "the Coughing Major”, the scandal that surrounded his 2001 win of £1,000,000 on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? and the subsequent court trial. The play opens in the courtroom where the cast invite the audience to be the jury, and so the case unfolds.

It was the technical crew who first reported their suspicions of a cough preceding a correct answer. The story moves from one location to another, has intercepting scenes and jumps time.

The first half romps along, presenting all of the characters involved and the many sides and opinions to the situation, interspersed with the actual TV show. The second half has the odd longer scene which slows the pace while presenting mainly the prosecution side to the story. The audience is addressed directly from the beginning, so we are aware that this is a re-enactment of events presented by actors.

It sometimes lapses into pantoesque exchanges, finally culminating at the end in the cast giving scenarios to the audience, as to possible explanations of events; indeed, the audience does have an active part being given ‘gismos’ at the beginning to cast votes. While this may be entertaining, directly involving the audience, it somewhat shirks the responsibility of the playwright, not having incorporated these scenarios into the script.

The well-designed, solid set (Robert Jones) effortlessly changes from courtroom to studio, pub and other locations with the lighting (Ryan Day) creating all the correct settings. The 12-strong cast play multiple roles, apart from Reeves and Charley Webb, who plays his wife Diana Ingram. The Scottish impressionist Rory Bremner plays Chris Tarrant with all the twitches, pauses and mannerisms we know. Bremner’s comedic experience is put to good use. Mark Benton’s extensive acting experience is also evident in his multiple roles and quick response to an unscripted moment. There are plasma screens filming some action on stage, but not unfortunately in sync with the actors.

Quiz premièred in Chichester in 2017, transferring to the West End in 2018. The stage play was adapted for a TV series in 2020 and has been made into a film.

While the content is based on documented fact, transcripts, statements and tapes, one cannot be sure of what was said behind closed doors—this is left to personal interpretation. There is nothing stranger than fact and this is a fascinating story, strongly acted, well directed (Daniel Evans and Sean Linner) and designed, but as to overall opinion, the jury is still out.

Reviewer: Anna Ambelez

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