TV personality caught in tabloid journalists’ sting in Dumb Show at St Albans theatre

Dumb Show opens at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans on Friday, June 8. Picture: Anne Frizell

Dumb Show opens at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans on Friday, June 8. Picture: Anne Frizell

Anne Frizell

A darkly comic satire about seedy tabloid journalism can be seen on stage in St Albans.

Dumb Show opens at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans on Friday, June 8. Picture: Anne FrizellDumb Show opens at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans on Friday, June 8. Picture: Anne Frizell

A television celebrity whose popularity is in decline is introduced by a trusted colleague to two wealthy bankers.

They want to offer him a lucrative deal as an after-dinner speaker.

What could possibly go wrong?

Dumb Show, by Joe Penhall, is being performed by Company of Ten at The Abbey Theatre in St Albans from this Friday.

It is a darkly comic satire about seedy tabloid journalism, with its brutal and bankrupt values, and the mechanism of entrapment.

Hot shot ‘private bankers’ John and Jane are plying TV personality Barry with equal parts outrageous flattery and vintage Champagne, both of which he finds irresistible.

Under the guise of crafting an after-dinner speech, the pair cajole him into revealing some of the seamier aspects of his off-camera life.

Barry is a weak, biddable man whose life and career are on the skids, but this is more than he bargained for.

Things escalate when Barry and ‘Jane’ are alone.

After hitting the drink and drugs he boasted of, he makes a fumbling pass, giving them even more ammunition.

All this, of course, is a prelude to the revelation that ‘John and Jane’ are really Greg and Liz, tabloid journalists after a grubby story to sell more copies of their publication.

So what if Barry is using them to get what he wants?

That doesn’t give them the right to do the same thing to him does it?

It might be fair to say that they are as bad as each other and that there is a symbiotic relationship between prey and predator.

But then doesn’t the public also have the right to know who the real Barry is?

We as a society have a voracious appetite for reading celebrity scandal.

What does that say about us? This is the moral dilemma at the heart of the play.

The truth is, that it is hard to stay in showbusiness for long without a strong sense of self preservation.

The same rule applies in journalism.

The stakes are high as the three masters of manipulation try to outwit each other, each with their own power-crazed agenda.

It is soon every man or woman for themselves.

There is a sting in the tale as their plan to entrap Barry falls apart and the two ‘hacks’ turn upon each other.

Performances take place in the Abbey Studio from Friday, June 8 to Saturday, June 9 at 8pm, and on Sunday, June 10 at 2.30pm.

There are then performances from Tuesday, June 12 to Saturday, June 16 at 8pm.

• To book tickets go to www.abbeytheatre.org.uk or call the box office on 01727 857861.

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