Review: Dumb Show at the Abbey Theatre Studio

Dumb Show plays at the Abbey Theatre Studio in St Albans. Picture: Anne Frizell

Dumb Show plays at the Abbey Theatre Studio in St Albans. Picture: Anne Frizell - Credit: Anne Frizell

Madeleine Burton reviews the Company of Ten’s production of Dumb Show at the Abbey Theatre Studio in St Albans.

Dumb Show. Picture: Anne Frizell

Dumb Show. Picture: Anne Frizell - Credit: Anne Frizell

A journalist reviewing a play about the bad behaviour of journalists could be seen as a tad too close for comfort.

But in Dumb Show, currently being performed by the Company of Ten in the Abbey Theatre Studio, it is not just the scribes who come out of the play badly.

For while the two journalists who set out to entrap a fading TV personality are immoral, hypocritical and brazen, so is their target.

And it is this moral conundrum at the heart of the play by Joe Penhall that makes Dumb Show so compelling.

None of the characters are sympathetic, but that does not stop the audience engaging with their behaviour.

Is it worse to be a desperate star on the wane with a drink and drug habit and little respect for his fans or two hacks enticing him to confess to the seedier side of his life for a good story?

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Thereby hangs the question at the heart of Dumb Show, a play that has clearly got under the skin of Jo Emery who directs it superbly.

The two journalists get access to the celebrity Barry by pretending to be private bankers Liz and Greg, who are trying to lure the sliding star into a money trap.

But as journalists Jane and John, they are actually luring him into a honey trap – particularly when Barry and Jane are left together in his plush hotel room.

Emily Carhart is mesmerising as Jane, who appears to be in thrall to John until the tables are turned and her true colours emerge.

And Oliver Sutton-Izzard, who gets better in every production in which he appears, has just the right amount of seediness as the morally-bankrupt John.

But the star in every sense of the word is Lester Adams as Barry – a man who appears both susceptible and naïve but is actually more than a match for the journalists.

He gives an absolutely towering performance.

Dumb Show is the penultimate production in a Company of Ten season that has gone from strength to strength.

It runs until Saturday, June 16.

• Tickets can be obtained from the box office on 01727 857861 or go to

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