The Assassination of Katie Hopkins, A New Musical
Words by Chris Bush, music by Matt Winkworth
Emlyn Williams Theatre, Theatr Clwyd
Whether it is by coincidence or deign, the gallery outside the Emlyn Williams Theatre in Theatr Clwyd is currently hosting an exhibition of works by Peter Welford. Among the themes in this excellent display of work, two in particular strike as prosaic. Firstly, there is Echo and Narcissus, in which the cult of celebrity and the intoxicating impact it can have on its disciples is examined. Then there is Pandora’s Box, a striking piece of work which depicts the PC as the object of great potential and even greater harm.
This ground-breaking production, which is premièring at Theatr Clwyd, is every bit as thought-provoking and graphic as this exhibition and holds a mirror to modern society that some may find discomforting at best.
The Assassination of Katie Hopkins is a musical based around an imagination of events that could ensue in the event that the media-savvy, distiller of discord should be “bumped off”. Alongside this is the virtually ignored tragedy of twelve migrant workers who have perished in a fire in their unsafe caravan accommodation. From here, a twin narrative unfolds that sets the sudden and fluctuating pendulum of social media against the depressing fight for justice for the victims of the fire.
From these events, two disparate but ultimately similar lead characters emerge. Maimuna Memon is outstanding as the principled young solicitor, returning to work after being the victim of sexual harassment and determined to help obtain justice for the workers. Bethzienna Williams is making a hugely impressive stage debut as Kayleigh, a media intern who suddenly finds herself in the limelight as her campaign for “Justice for Katie” gathers momentum. Both find themselves in the eye of the social media storm; both are brought crashing down by it.
Harper Lee wrote that “a mob's always made up of people, no matter what,” to emphasise the individual nature of each member of a baying crowd. Part of the genius of this production is the portrayal of the swaying loyalties of the populace alongside the rationalisation of views by individual characters.
We veer from a pastiche of the celebrations of Margaret Thatcher’s demise with “ding dong the wicked witch is dead” to placard-waving pro-Hopkins demonstrations demanding vengeance. There is a sublimely moving scene, particularly so in this town, when Rakesh Boury presents the innocent Muslim dentist wrongly named as the killer and subsequently attacked.
The story is delivered in a series of texts, tweets and YouTube clips that appear on the brilliantly conceived stage set and help to convey the breathless pace of views going viral which is a hallmark of this production.
The Assassination of Katie Hopkins is well-conceived, brilliantly written and flawlessly delivered. It is compelling and at times uncomfortable viewing and you may well feel a little self-conscious as you reach for your mobile on the way out. It is a selfie on our society and, as ever, the camera never lies.
Reviewer: Dave Jennings