Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Top Story - review

Written by: Tom Woods (@Thomas_E_Woods)

Where did Woods Watch it?
The Old Vic Tunnels
Was Woods won over?

Top Story could perhaps learn something from its namesake. Whilst it deals with some very interesting themes and a lot of ideas it lacks some of the punch and pace of the BBC News at Ten’s headlines.

Following the announcement that a meteorite the size of L.A. is going to hit…L.A. Top Story follows the lives of Gus (Lewis Goody) and Talfryn (Ed Pinker) as they aim to see the world out together, the news anchor Chrissie Craven (Josephine Kime) and her team of rather libidinous correspondents covering the apocalypse (Andy Hawthorne and Richard Matthews), and the angels Raoul (James Messer) and Alphon (Stephen Schreiber) as they discuss overarching existentialist ideas. Set over the week leading up to the collision it tries to tackle an awful lot of themes and it isn’t always entirely successful, due in part to how much it beats around the bush exploring them; seven plays for seven days may have been a more appropriate title – and at times seems to go on for about that long.

Photo: Foteini Christofilopoulou
It isn’t by any stretch of the imagination a bad play mind you. The cast is full of energy and work well together. There are some very strong performances, in particular from Kime, Hawthorne, and Matthews, who all display fantastic comic timing and manage to brilliantly capture the feeling of any BBC news broadcast with mannerisms down to a tee. It is very much the news team delivering the eponymous Top Story that is the highlight here.

Amongst the scenes between Talfryn and Gus there are some diamonds in the rough, in particular a memorable scene where the two ecstatically discuss their new rules for chess, and a few moments of comedy as well, but more often than not it feels hindered by dialogue that can’t decide if it wants to be absurdist or realistic, resulting in a jarring and oft times tedious pacing.  Gus’ existential crisis has so much potential but it sadly drags on far too long; it isn’t really until the second act that we get any meaningful or satisfactory insight into any of the ideas of the play by which point it feels too late.

Being a play about the end of the world, the Old Vic Tunnels are eerily suitable; the thunder of trains overhead add a real sense of foreboding what with the subject matter. It works with the strip lighting (Richard Lambert), haunting melodies of Gus’ ringtone and the incidental music of each story (Geoff Widdowson) to present three very different but equally interesting atmospheres, each in their own way offering a feeling of inevitability to proceedings. Ultimately Top Story tries too hard to do too much at once and by trying to cover so much ground falls short. Nevertheless with the Mayan doomsayers safely proven wrong, and the New Year being a time of resolutions to ‘seize the day’ this is a very relevant, if not necessarily top, story.

This production runs until 2 February 2013

Follow us on Twitter / Like us on Facebook

No comments: