Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Reporter

Last night was spent on the ridiculously uncomfortable seats of the National’s Cottesloe Theatre for Nicholas Wright’s new play The Reporter, a study of the life and suicide of the BBC correspondent and former MI6 operative, James Mossman. Ben Chaplin (someone Lisa is physically incapable of talking about without employing the word ‘yummy’, often several times in the same sentence) plays Mossman and he plays him well. The role is written almost as if Mossman were delivering an on-air report on his own life, and Chaplin’s delivery, all clipped English consonants, can’t be faulted.

The play is also fascinating on the ways in which onscreen journalism has evolved. The scenes of Mossman and Robin Day presenting Panorama were superbly handled, full of brilliant little details. I loved the way Mossman’s boss at the BBC paused for a cup of tea and a fig roll before ticking him off over a wayward interview. Mossman’s ‘demotion’ to the role of arts journalist also lead to lot of wry laughter from an audience in which arts journalists made up a major percentage.

Wright doesn’t provide any concrete answers to why Mossman killed himself (leaving a note that read: “I can’t bear it any longer, though I don’t know what ‘it’ is”), but then how could he? Despite that, this is still the most thought-provoking and engaging play I’ve seen so far this year. Fascinating stuff.

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